It's 10 long months since I was last in Pattaya, the days of visiting every 5 o 6 weeks seem so long ago. Taking the other half to a place known amongst many for its naughty nightlife is odd, right? Actually, it isn't. The Pattaya of today offers plenty for the casual visitor that you needn't be a fan of overly flirtatious women to find Pattaya appealing.
Bangkok empties out at holiday weekends and seemingly everyone with wheels heads to the beach. Despite its reputation, Pattaya *is* popular with the Thais. It was mid-afternoon when we pulled in to Sin City and with so little time in town – we planned to head back to Bangers after lunch the next day – we were keen to make the most of it.
Wandering around Pattaya on Saturday afternoon, what struck me was that the beer bars had so few ladies. The likes of Wonderful Bar and other beer bars along Second Road were bereft of working girls. That was the first clue things had changed.
Entire beer bar areas that had vanished, replaced by shops, restaurants and hotels. That was clue number two.
If ever there was doubt about the change in visitor demographics and Pattaya's transformation from Sin City to mainstream resort, on a brochure stand I spot a small word right near the bottom, "English" – where a very small selection of brochures can be seen. Most brochures in Pattaya are in Russian along and other languages I don't recognise.
It took many months but the Beach Road promenade is finally complete, and it makes for very pleasant space to stroll.
Pattaya has always had more than its share of characters, many of whom are familiar faces, and the Pattaya bird man is one of them.
Boats drift back to the mainland from Larn Island; girls get ready for another night on the boardwalk and amble towards their favourite spot; tour buses empty out as guides shepherd groups back to the hotel for dinner before they will join the masses at Pattaya's ground zero and make the obligatory walk from one end of Walking Street to the other. Daylight will soon be replaced by night and Pattaya is about to come alive.
From high above the city there is zero evidence of that which made Pattaya (in)famous. The beach looks like just another tropical Asian resort with crescent-shaped beach, obligatory beach-front promenade and hotel-lined shore front.
The highlight of the trip was not the goings on in Walking Street, but dinner at The Hilton where the buffet is as good as anything in Bangkok. Think Bangkok quality, with Bangkok prices from 10 years ago.
A new promenade, countless new properties going up and a skyline that gets more impressive every year, the face and feel of Pattaya continues to change.
But some things never change and the walk along Beach Road is as entertaining as it has always been.
And while many of the names on Walking Street are relatively new, some of the old names remain. Penthouse Hotel, Misty's, Shamrock and other hot spots that have lit up Soi Pattayaland 2 for decades remain, but they cannot compete with TQ on Beach Road, 36 years later and despite being located well away from bar areas, the lights are still going strong at TQ. In their wildest dreams did the founders ever imagine the bar would be going strong almost 4 decades later?
There were noticeably fewer calls of hello handsome man as just like their sisters inside the bars, the girls on Beach Road are engrossed in their phones.
Across from Mike's Department Store which is currently undergoing renovations is evidence of what happens when things don't work out. More than a few who call Pattaya home sleep the stars.
Walking Street is bedlam, hardly unexpected given it's a long weekend. Middle Easterners and Indians are the two dominant groups. Asian tour groups are led by flag carrying leaders. Eastern European couples and single white guys make up relatively small numbers.
The first word that comes to mind to describe the Walking Street crowd? Cosmopolitan.
The Eastern European window dancers used to go crazy if you pointed a long lens in their direction. These days they aren't camera shy at all.
Today Walking Street is all about entertainment. The masses wander, meander, taking in the spectacle and the biggest crowds are found around street performers.
These days nightlife – read prostitution – is just one part of Walking Street, in much the same way that strolling around Amsterdam and watching men go in to the small window-fronted rooms is. The only interest most people visiting Pattaya these days have in the likes of Angelwitch, Fahrenheit and Alcatraz is photographing the neon signs and the girls standing outside.
Russian birds dance up a storm, having the time of their lives. They put the local so-called professional dancers to shame with their energy and enthusiasm. Imagine this lot with their passion and sexual energy on a gogo stage!
The Muay Thai ring below the Marine Disco has long been a fixture of Walking Street. It's not MBK Fight night, but tourists still lap it up.
The few bars we look inside are fairly quiet. On the Saturday night of a long weekend I would have expected better.
Some Walking Street bars seemed to have lowered their standards, and even some of the big name bars had some real porkers. Pattaya is a less pricey option, but it does rather seem the prettiest girls in the industry are not in Pattaya but in the bars of Bangkok.
More than a few Bangkok residents scoff off at the bar industry in Pattaya and you frequently hear Bangkok bar bosses mouth off about how the Pattaya bars are full of dogs.
The most fun the girls have is fooling around amongst themselves. Those holding sandwich boards outside bars to entice customers inside had perfected the fake smile.
Pattaya retains its reputation for sex tourism amongst sex tourists, but for those visiting for the first time, Pattaya is more a beach resort with a party atmosphere. Sex tourism is no longer the dominant industry in Pattaya.
For sex tourists visiting Pattaya there is still plenty to keep them happy. For the majority of visitors, however – those for whom the bars are but an exciting backdrop – Pattaya offers an affordable beach holiday.
In the 10 months since I last stepped foot in Pattaya the pace of change seems to have picked up and the city is moving away from its roots. Will the day come when the Sin City moniker no longer fits?
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of a lady with peculiar tattoos on the backs of her legs walking towards the Chongnonsee BTS station. Only 2 very clever readers got it right.
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 – A time for change.
For so long, the country did fine, all the little chieftains running their various schemes and scams. There were attempts at creating visa plans, like the retirement visa (pegged at age 55, quickly dropped to 50). But there was no consistency. People said that you'd have a great Immigration officer, show up the next time and you'd get an ogre. And rules would change – I think you reported on a sudden new regulation that you needed four photos (w/wife, house, etc). Meanwhile, local fiefdoms ran scams and it was simply business as usual. Perhaps, that is the way Thais view their nation, a collection of locales run by pooyai. Humanity was greedy but, well, there wasn't all that much flowing into the country in, say, the 80s. Yet that view persisted. As politics became more lucrative and naked power-grabbing, it became troublesome. Coups, which used to be like rainstorms, became international news items. Violence escalated as FDI skyrocketed. You had these various factions that, for about the last 10 years, increasingly became useless. More money, more buildings, more anger, more protests…journalists lamenting that Thailand was destroying itself with this internecine self-evisceration. Then the guys with the most guns come in and put a stop to it. No more. They are in charge. The international community grumbles, but they ain't gonna do jackshit, as we Yanks say. So we have a new sheriff in town. There are no more political affiliations. Some statement about democracy next year. And they're moving on to the stuff that no-one touched, because they didn't want to annoy chieftain or pooyai. The Phuket scams (Pattaya will be interesting). The visa absurdities. There's no Purachai in these ranks – these are military men. They know guys are gonna go for the neonpussybooze. But I get the sense of the new sheriff. What was tolerated should have been addressed long ago. And now, perhaps, it will be.
A disorganised motley crew.
I often wonder why folks that intend to remain in Thailand have not sought to organise and lobby for some basic rights and representation. In the USA, new arrivals often worked together and clamored for acceptance from the elites, but it was a hard slog and if they had not been united by race, language and culture, they would never have succeeded. We foreigners in Thailand are a motley crew, a Heinz 57 variety of different languages and political outlooks. We are very diverse and any plan to organise us would be like herding cats. Easier said than done. Not to be negative, but I just don't see expats here organising themselves into an effective lobbying effort.
Thailand is very similar to the rest of the world. Sadly, racism is a fact of life. All one can hope for is to, A) suppress it, and B) educate the young that it is wrong. As you correctly point out, anyone who has lived in the Kingdom for any length of time, is aware that there are only certain lengths one can go to express their point of view, without fear of reprisal. The locals don't take kindly to criticism in any shape or form really, do they? Accepting responsibility for anything is as alien as is eating Shepherd's pie! As one of the '10 year expats' you interviewed recently pointed out, "They don't really like us!" A shame, but true.
Farang a dirty word?
Respectfully, why do you propagate use of the word 'farang'? (9 times in your column). It's not you I realise, but until foreigners or westerners come to see that this word is veiled in distrust and sometimes disdain from the Thai perspective, we can't complain about the locals' view of us. I don't buy the it's a polite colloquialism BS. We bring our problems on ourselves.
Farang residents and Thai language skills.
It is sad indeed that it is vanishingly rare to come across an expat in Thailand who can speak the native language with any noticeable degree of fluency. Rarer still to find one who can read and write. What astounds me in particular are the great many English teachers I know who have been here for years, every day lecturing their students on language acquisition and cajoling the Thais to learn English, but who themselves have only made the weakest of attempts to learn Thai. What a cheek! I count my teacher friends amongst this number, too. Lots of them seem to think that speaking baby English without using prepositions or verb inflection and adding a ‘na' at the end of a sentence constitutes proficient Thai. Last year I went to a tailor's in Asoke to order some shirts. The owner of the shop is a Bangladeshi who has had his store in Bangkok for decades and deals with lots of Westerners buying suits and the like. While in the shop I received a phone call from a True Visions engineer arranging an appointment to come to my apartment. Obviously the phone call was all in Thai. When I hung up, this long-time Bangkok resident was clearly so impressed with my command of the language, that he asked me the question – which Thais have also asked me on occasion, but which still bewilders me – “Are you Thai?” Being of Irish background, I have pale skin and reddish coloured hair. So I don't look anything like a Thai (not even a ลูกครึ่ง). And during our conversation in English I had negotiated the chit chat in my broad Mancunian accent. The point I am making is this: clearly due to the poverty of Thai language skills amongst us expats, so impossible is the concept of a Westerner having bothered to learn the language, that a pale, white, long-nosed, auburn-haired, 6-foot-one Mancunian was mistaken for a Thai!Thai visa hassles might mean goodbye. I spend maybe 30% of the year in Thailand between jobs and never more than 2 weeks at a time. I have always had 30-day visa waiver stamps with no problem. That is until this Saturday when the lady at Immigration asked me why I had no visa. I explained it was because I stay here to holiday between jobs. She wasn't happy and asked for evidence that I worked abroad. I tried to argue that it was obvious that as I spent 70% of my time in Saudi, Japan, Indonesia etc, that I worked overseas, but she wasn't convinced. Luckily, I had a pay slip from my Emirati employer in my bag, which seemed to push me over the line. She then said that I can't keep using 30-day waivers and I have to get a proper visa. No reason was given. If this is how it is, then the thou$and$ I contribute to Thailand every month will be spent in Vietnam or Cambodia. I guess it's my fault for choosing to spend my free time in Thailand.
It's official, Angelwitch 2 is no longer – at least in name – and the bar that has been known as Angelwitch 2 since late last year has officially been renamed to London Calling with signs in the style of London underground station signs.
Work is proceeding slowly on the top floor of Nana Plaza, in the spot that once housed Lone Star. The space has been divided in to two and it looks like it is going to be completely gutted before construction on what appears to be two new bars begins. One of the owners of Sin, the popular late night Soi Nana bar from several years ago, is said to be involved.
The new Bed Supper Club is coming to the end of Sukhumvit soi 13, next to the Chic Hotel and it is said that the same structure as the original Bed Supper Club will be used. The distinctive cylinder-shaped shell is being dismantled and will be taken over to the next soi where the new venue will have a new name, Chi Ultra Lounge.
The hot spot in Pattaya is Crazy House – which has no relationship with the bar of the same name just around the corner from Soi Cowboy, on Sukhumvit soi 23. It's in the spot which was previously Teasers, at the start of the alley leading down to Living Dolls, and is getting raps from many of the bar faithful in Pattaya.
A reminder that the first Nanapong dance contest in some 10 odd years will take place at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy tonight. Regrettably I won't be able to make it so if you do go along let me know how it was!
A disheveled foreigner who looks to be late 40s or early 50s is begging around Ploenchit Road and Sukhumvit soi 4 – and quite possibly other areas too. He is unshaven, balding, looks rough and has been seen begging on and off for months. It would seem that he is a professional beggar and the length of time he has been doing this reminds me of the infamous Dutchman who was a fixture begging in various hot spots around town for a year or two, several years ago.
The busiest part of Sukhumvit Road should be easier to walk along with notices up stating that from the 16th (yesterday) vendors will not be able to set up their stalls before 7 PM. There are no restrictions on the time they can operate through to.
The authorities are making things a little more difficult for those residing in the country with an ED visa after a rule change which will specifically affect those on an ED visa who attend private language schools i.e. are studying Thai. Previously what happened was that the school would get the paperwork from the Ministry of Education and you would then have to go out of the country to apply for a single-entry ED visa which was good for 90 days. Once back in Thailand it could be extended every 90 days at Immigration for the next 12 months. At the end of that year you went to the Ministry of Education, were tested to see that you really could speak Thai and once that was signed off you could get another year's worth of 90-day extensions at the immigration department. The cycle could be repeated one more time meaning you could effectively stay in the country for 3 years on just one Non-Immigrant Type-ED visa. Anyone not totally and utterly fluent after studying the language for 3 years is either a moron or is part of a visa scam, but that's another story. Under the new rules you can only get 90 day extensions of stay for one year and at the end of that 12 months you have to leave the country, apply for a new visa at an embassy or consulate outside of the country as the process starts again. There is also talk that class attendance records must be kept by the language school and the Immigration Department will check them from time to time for accuracy by turning up unannounced. Anyone not meeting the minimum number of lessons (4 x 2-hour lessons per week) might find their visa in jeopardy. Abuse of the ED visa is so widespread that this was always going to happen and comes as a surprise to no-one.
Thailand has done a remarkable job promoting the country as a place to holiday and most have a great holiday, so much so that many start planning their next trip to the country before they have even got back home – and many people visit the country many times per year. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the Immigration crackdown is that regular visitors may find themselves being looked at closely and scrutinized when they enter the country. This is causing much apprehension amongst some regular visitors for whom the last thing they want is hassles on arrival. With all of the publicity surrounding the immigration crackdown, apprehension is so strong that some are saying that they visit elsewhere. Thailand is losing some genuine tourists over this, a shame for all concerned and ironic given that the TAT is fighting to turn the tourist numbers around after widely reported double digit percentage drops in visitor numbers.
August 12th came and went and there has been no noticeable increase in reports of people being turned away at the border for having too many visa waiver stamps in their passport. This past Tuesday had been announced as the day Immigration would crack down from but it seems that they had in fact already started the crackdown.
Following on from a recent opening piece about how it's not just Thailand cracking down on foreigners residing in the country but so are other countries, comes news this week that Cambodia will require expats with a business visa to get a work permit – whether they are working or not. And the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this week that Cambodia visa fees will be increased from October 1st. The current tourist visa price of $20 per month will go up to $30, and for business visa holders it will increase from $25 to $35 per month. With the requirement to have a work permit whether one is employed or not, Cambodia no longer looks like the soft touch it once was and those who were about to say lar-gon (goodbye forever) to Thailand and head east might need to rethink their plans. The easy ride thousands of Westerners have had residing in Cambodia on business visas at around $300 per year may be coming to an end.
Two articles in the local press this week show how nationalistic things are in Thailand at present. The first article was a suggestion that Thais take the enforcement of copyright more seriously so that those outside Thailand don't profit from the sale of Thai products! Given how rampant the abuse of copyright is in Thailand, this is arrogant in the extreme. The other article discussed how foreigners travelling in or out of Thailand with more than the equivalent of $20,000 in currency and who fail to declare it should have it confiscated. I bet the number of foreigners travelling with that amount of currency is low, just as I would guess that those who do so are more than likely locals. Why are foreigners so often blamed for ills and evils within Thailand that we clearly have nothing to do with? It's nauseating nonsense!
Can you recommend somewhere for my friend to go for an STD test because he has been bonking working girls for years without protection? What should my friend who overstayed his visa and has no money do? Do you think my friend who has known a Pattaya soi 6 lady for 3 weeks should marry her? My friend… Ain't it funny how many people emailing me have friends who get themselves in hot water, almost as if the friend is incapable of emailing me himself?
The bulldozers at the Dusit Thani hotel in Pattaya are not there to demolish parts of the hotel which some mooted may have been built on public land. The Dusit has to make a public walkway at the promontory where the point is because they need to provide access between the 2 beaches. They failed to keep the pathway at the bottom of the cliff in good repair and members of the public complained to the City – and now the Dusit is doing something about it.
Reader's story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, "A Sense of Obligation".
The Bangkok Post takes a look at some Bangkok rich kids and their high-profile car accidents.
The Big Chilli examines the issue of foreigners drugged and robbed in Pattaya.
Ghana footballers claim that to survive in Thailand they have to have sex with local women.
A reminder that travellers are required to declare funds of more than $20,000 equivalent when travelling in / out of Thailand.
A Thai Airways flight from Sydney made an emergency landing when a cracked window was found in the cockpit.
Ladyboys have been arrested for a string of burglaries at Lopburi military camp after many had boyfriends on base.
Christopher G. Moore's latest essay titled Online Commercial Sex – the Digital Age of Victimless Crimes is a good read.
A coroner questions whether a young Brit found hanged in a cell in Thailand did it himself or not.Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: My wife and I recently sourced rental accommodation through a housing agent and upon the final selection we reached agreement with the owner on price, outfitting and terms and conditions of lease. One day prior to the signature setting on the agreement the owner notifies the agent that she has decided to alleviate from our agreement and proceed with another tenant for a higher rental fee.
Normally speaking any verbal contract is as good as a written one, as long as it can be proven, and in this case we believe it is, as we have the correspondence (email) between the agent and the owner and the correspondence held between the agent and ourselves that confirms all aspects of the agreements made and that a deal was in fact sealed, however no signatures were set.
Now also in our opinion any agreement between two parties which commits the parties to something should be legally binding. Signatures do not make the agreement more binding, they just make it a lot easier to prove in a court of law that there was indeed an agreement. In this case we had an agreement that was standing and we have the email correspondence to prove it.
Now also, based on the verbal agreement to proceed we have made a number of cost commitments that, as a result of the owner's late decision, are now proving to be abortive and therefore we are out of pocket by some 80 – 100 K baht and question whether under Thai law it is possible to seek financial compensation for these pre-commitments. Please advise.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: In Thailand you must have a signed contract for it to be legally binding. According to Thai law in civil cases, a court will base their ruling on evidence of which a legally binding document signed by both parties would be required for you to file for breach of agreement. E-mail correspondence is not treated as a commitment as there were no reservation fees or a deposit paid. The courts would look at the signed agreement for the basis for decisions.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors always recommends that you have a legally binding document signed by both parties before proceeding.
Question 2: There have been thousands of posts on blogs and discussion forums over the past few weeks about the need for "aliens" to carry ID in Thailand. Some of these mention sections of acts without identifying the act. Most are confusing at best, uninformed or misleading at worst and use terms like "carry ID", "carry passport" and "produce passport" as if they are interchangeable terms.
Without being able to quote the relevant law I was always under the impression that if challenged by police you always needed to show some form of ID (I have always carried a Thai driver's license and copy of my passport pages) and if challenged further, produce within 24 hours a valid passport with valid visa / permission to stay stamps, but I have always assumed you would be held in custody until this was produced.
Can Sunbelt Asia list the relevant acts and sections that apply, outline valid forms of ID for aliens in various circumstances, confirm the 24-hour period for producing a passport, confirm if held in custody in the interim, clarify how much is specified in the Act(s) vs. how much is at the discretion of the officer involved, and clarify any differences (if any) when challenged by Immigration Police as distinct from Highway Patrol or local Police.
Officers are being more watchful to ensure that there are not people overstaying their visas.
The relevant act is the Alien Registration Act B.E. 2493 (1950 A.D.) Section 17 and Section 22 (3). The Act does not specifically state that it must be presented to an official within 24 hours but in practice we have heard of the police allowing the foreigner to send a friend to their house or accommodation to get their passport. Sometimes the official has gone back to their home or hotel to collect the passport. However, if they require your passport then you will need to present it. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends to long term residents in Thailand that they carry both a Thai driver's license (if they have one) and a photocopy of both the ID page and the visa page with them at all times in case they are stopped by the police.
Question 3: My parents fled Laos and I was born in a Thai refugee camp. I've been living in the US for the last 28 years. Would it be possible for me to get a Thai passport? I have my original birth certificate and documents.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: You may not be eligible for Thai nationality as Thai law does not automatically give Thai citizenship to children born in the country. According to the Nationality Act, Section 7 states that there are few ways that a person can acquire Thai citizenship by birth:
1. A person born of a father or a mother of Thai nationality, whether within or outside of Thailand; OR
2. A person who was born within Thailand except person listed in Section 7 bis
And under Section 7 bis states that a person born within Thailand of Alien parents does not acquire Thai nationality if at the time of his / her birth, his lawful father or father who did not marry his mother or his mother was:
1. The person having been given leniency for temporary residence Kingdom as a special case;
2. The person having been permitted to stay temporarily in the Kingdom;
3. The person having entered and resided in Thailand without permission under the law of immigration.
While under section 8 further states that a person born within Thailand of alien parent does not acquire Thai citizenship, if at the time of his / her birth, his / her father or mother was:
1. Head of a diplomatic mission or a member thereof;
2. Head of consular mission or a member thereof;
3. An officer or expert of an international organization;
4. Member of a family, either as a relative under patronage or servant, who came from abroad to reside with the person in number 1, 2 or 3
If you are unsure then Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors would recommend taking your documentation (including that of your parents) to the Thai embassy to verify.
I won't be putting a column together next week as I will be away from Bangkok. It will probably be the last time I take a week off from the column (although I will continue to update the readers' submissions section of the site). The next weekly column will be published on August 31st.
Your Bangkok commentator,