Stickman's Weekly Column October 26th, 2014

The World Through Bangkok Eyes


Most chroniclers of Bangkok's expat bar areas and naughty nightlife include much of their own flavour in their reporting. Some are so gushingly positive about Bangkok bar life that you could be forgiven for thinking they're on the payroll. Others are so critical that you wonder if they are talking about the same industry so many enjoy. There is one chronicler of the farang nightlife bar areas who largely keeps his opinion out of it, but rather provides a monthly roundup of Bangkok's bar areas to create a historical perspective. For more than a decade BangkokEyes.com has been chronicling Bangkok's expat bar areas and this week the chief correspondent, Will Morledge, and I met up for a chat about the bar industry and life in Bangkok.





How long have you been here? I ask because whenever I hear your name, or at least your site mentioned, I also hear those two words, Vietnam and War. That must make you almost as old as Dean Barrett!

We purists see that as three words. Viet. Nam. War. <He laughs> But I got here in 1967.

I wasn't even born then!

<He laughs> Holy crap, now you're making me really feel old! I left the very first day of 1968 overland through Laos and Cambodia for Vietnam and I spent the next 7½ years in Vietnam.

In the military?

No, I was working as an engineer with a military contractor. At the conclusion of the war and at the evacuation I was heli-lifted out of Saigon to the Philippines and then came back to Thailand.

You have been here in Bangkok ever since?

I have been stationed here ever since. I have had a residence here ever since, even if I have occasionally taken work in other countries and have come back for holidays and what not.

This leads in to my biggest regret and that is that I should have been maintaining records of the nightlife scene since at least 1975. I didn't and I regularly beat my head against the wall about it!

Wow, that's such a long time to have been living in Bangkok!

Yeah, I could have had full coverage of New Petchaburi Road which they called the golden mile in those days and a continuous history of the nightlife from then up to the present. Reconstructing Petchaburi Road has been one of my ongoing goals and I have not been very successful in reconstructing what Petchaburi Road was in the '60s and '70s.

My one website regret is similar to yours in a way. I really enjoy the photography side of things and now I wish I had bought a DSLR earlier and taken more photos in the old days. Like you say, it's a record of the bar industry and of a time, place and in some cases, people who no longer exist.

Getting back to Petchaburi Road, that was way before my time. Can you give me an idea of what it was like back then?

Petchaburi Road was a combination of large and small venues. The larger venues would often have entertainment. The smaller venues were tiny dark bars and it was essentially pre a-gogo, at least for the '60s, and there were some memorable places there, one of which was the Thai Heaven which you will often see in print – and it really was heaven. It was more or less configured as a dance hall but was never used as a dance hall per se. It was more along the lines of a freelancer bar and most people have grand memories of that old venue. It really was so much fun! Everyone would end up there if they didn't end up with something else earlier. It was very much like the old Thermae in that regard.

The other venue of note was Jack's American Star Bar which was owned by a black American military retiree and friends. And they would have live music to include the soul music of the day. It met an unfortunate end when the owners were busted for drugs. It was very popular.

The Petchaburi Road nightlife area was approximately a mile long and had a lot of massage parlours and short-time hotels.

So it was nothing like it is today?

Nothing like it.

How do you think things are different today to back then?

I won't go in to too much detail about that, but I would tend to concur with the preponderance of current opinion that the Thai smile is disappearing. That's reflected in a lot of what you have written as well.

I look at your site every month and enjoy it immensely, but I don't read it all and there's a reason for that. Trink once said to me that if you read the work of others who are covering the same stuff then you cannot help but be influenced by them to some extent. But let me say that yours is the one dispatch I do genuinely enjoy. Can you tell me about how your website began.

With reference to being influenced by other sites, it's the same with me to an extent. I, for example, don't go to your site and read any of the newest additions that might affect what I put on my site that month. I will hold off reading them until the following month. I do the same with movie reviews and refuse to read them until such time as I have seen the movie myself. And that's partly because I do the occasional movie review on my site and I don't want to be influenced in any way.

My site began evolutionarily and started with Alan Dawson's book, Patpong, Bangkok's Big Little Street. I read his book and I admired the effort he put in to chronicling some of the Patpong history but from my personal experience I saw it was far from being the total picture. This was back in about 1991 or so and at that point in time I started doing a month-end survey of the major expat bar areas with no website in mind and with no real future in mind for this large stack of surveys that I was piling up each year.

Part 2 of that came when I was working as a consultant. I decided it would be important for me as a consultant to be knowledgeable about computers from top to bottom as part of the services I would offer. It eventually worked out that I would teach myself HTML and how to make a website, just a blank website without any direction or meaning or content. The 2 people who more or less mentored me about journalism suggested that I make the website because I was already doing the surveys of the expat areas. So the column started out haphazardly with very small, just trial columns, or dispatches. It just evolved from that in to what it is today which eventually included pictures and other little features that now appear in it.

Did you have a vision that it would turn in to what it has? I mean, there are comments on the site about creating a historical record of Bangkok nightlife and your site does that particularly well.

Actually, in spite of all the fluff like the door art of the month and the Thai smile and all the little extras, the vision hasn't changed from the original which was to create a history of the Bangkok nightlife. That still is the underlying force, to including the graffiti photos.

You seem to stick to reporting what is going on, telling the news so to speak, and not putting too much opinion out there. I tend to be quite opinionated and say what I feel. I also really enjoy following and commenting on trends which, these days, aren't always positive. Is this deliberate or just merely your style?

It's not so much deliberate, it's a matter of time. I reserve 4 days at the end of the month to do everything and this leaves me free the rest of the month to get on with my life. I would love to have more opinion pieces but there is not enough time in the day.

Many Bangkok nightlife columnists / chroniclers are not really in to the scene themselves i.e. they tend to go elsewhere for kicks and chronicling the industry is something they do for fun as much as anything. Is that the case with you?

I'm out on the streets at night a lot so I have a chance to see at least a fraction of what is going on but my personal tastes have changed over the last 2 decades and I am not a big bar person any more. I am not big on going in to the a-gogo bars or just drinking in bars or pubs. I prefer to do other things.

You take a lot of photos. Tell me about the camera you use and your approach to photography.

The camera has to meet a certain specification. One, it has to be able to fit in my pocket and two, it has to be able to take reasonable low-light photos because most of my photos are taken without flash. I currently use a Sony with a 30x optical zoom to take photos, for example across Nana Plaza and have them still look good. I take 20 megapixel originals and then begins a laborious Photoshop process, sometimes taking up to an hour per photo.

Oh, man, you need to attend the Stickman school of photo editing – 30 seconds per shot, maximum 2 minutes and not a second more! That's a lot of time you spend on photos…and you take a lot of shots!

Yes, I take a lot of photos. I will take several photos of the same thing and that would include even a flash photo and that photo which appears online might be a combination of 3, 4 or even 5 photos.

You're dedicated!

It comes with retirement!

So no plans to get a DSLR?

I'd love to get a DSLR. I drool over them every time I go past the shops. But they're too big! I would also wait until I can get a camera that shoots RAW.

That baby doesn't shoot RAW?

No.

Oh man, you're up against it.

I find shooting in the bar areas more difficult these days and people much more sensitive to having their photo taken. I don't want to upset anyone so I take fewer shots these days.

2 months ago I was approached by a girl from a bar in Soi Cowboy. She asked me if I was the one who ran the Bangkok Eyes website and I said yes, how did you know. She said I had her photo up on my site of her working in a bar. I had no recollection of taking her photo but it must have been included in a picture somehow. I offered to take it down if she could tell me when she saw it. No, that's ok, but she had to explain to several of her friends that she worked in a bar and fortunately for me she wasn't upset about this but it could have gone the other way and I think this demonstrates the potential problem of publishing pictures from the night scene that we now face in Bangkok.

It happened again on soi 33 at Santana. I put a photo of this pint-sized girl from Santana up on the site and somebody who also frequented that bar told her about that, and she asked me to take the photo down, and I did. In the old days you could take photos of girls dancing nude and nothing would happen, but these days I don't even ask about it. I don't have the time to invest in getting permissions and what not.

Your site has a section with photos of graffiti. I have a real downer about graffiti. I reckon it makes a neighbourhood look tacky and in worst cases, like something of a gangland. What's the deal with photographing it? Is this a celebration of graffiti?

This is a frequently asked question. I have never really answered it. My coverage of graffiti is seen by outsiders as you see it. There are some graffiti buffs and they like to frequent my site and other graffiti sites. They tend to call it street art or art brut or something like that as their justification for graffiti. However, what most people don't see in my site is that I have taken neither position. I have taken the position that graffiti is controversial and I present on the site the graffiti controversy. For example, my lead story in the graffiti section this month is an anti-graffiti lead story. It is a story about how the city of Monterrey in California is offering a free mobile phone app for those who see graffiti. They can take a photo of it with their GPS on and it sends the photo to the city council with the location of the graffiti so they can go and scrub it off.

Most people are like yourself. In fact I have had some very violent anti-graffiti people blast me with emails. They have really blasted me! I have not bothered to explain but they have blasted away. If you read the lead story I put in front of the photos, it is almost always about graffiti problems and how cities handle the problem, or how the city has graffiti walls set up for aerosol freaks to go and do their stuff. It is intended to be an historical view. If the website was to somehow make it to the future then a future reader would be able to see that graffiti was a controversial item in this day and age.

You mention that you get blasted by some people. I too get the occasional bent out of shape email. Mostly they are when I mention an aspect of the nightlife in a negative light. Do you get blasted – I like that word – for any other issues or takes you have?

The answer is yes. And to lay the ground work, the fictitious people that populate my site have been assigned personality quirks by myself. They're really just characters. They are not really me but nonetheless they still generate some harsh reactions from some people. The biggest one is when I do my monthly survey and I note that a nightspot is closed. Often the owners will blast me and say we were not closed, we have never been closed and you need to put a retraction in your website about this. I don't put the retractions in but I offer to send the photos of their venue while they were closed. Being basically an asshole myself, the assholes don't really get to me!

There was a case with a massage parlour in soi 33, all the way down. I noticed it had reopened after being closed for two months and I saw the Chinese owner outside who I had a nodding acquaintance with. I congratulated him for reopening. Right there on the street he berated me, swearing up and down that he had never been closed a single day! I offered to show him the photograph and he said, oh you probably took it some time after midnight. I said, no, actually the photo has the date stamp right on it but I am not going to argue with you and I departed. You don't want to wrestle with a hog – you both get muddy and the hog is happy. I didn't argue the point any further.

Do you find that some bar bosses are more touchy these days? Business is hard, they make big investments and it can feel like there are fewer people spending less than they once did.

The answer is yes but there's a difference between the depth to which I get to know owners and the depth to which you get to know owners. I generally know them very superficially and most of the times that I have noticed when they get hyper sensitive is when they notice I am taking photographs of the outside of their establishments.

I thought they would be happy about that? It's free advertising!

I would have thought so. Some of them come running out, waving their hands or sending their managers out waving their hands saying no photo, no photo! It is my fault. If I had got to know the owners first then they probably would have been ok. But my penchant for aloofness is probably the main cause of that.

When I started my website I tended to laugh at Bernard Trink and the problems he had with certain bar owners with regards to cooperation and with regards to outright dishonesty. I tended to disbelieve him somewhat. After about 3 or 4 years in to my website I realised that old Bernie was spot on and that there are a lot of disingenuous bar owners who won't be straightforward with you. There are a number that are good like Dave The Rave. I should put up his good name.

You used to know Trink, right?

I know Trink very casually. I have met him a number of times and we have had brief conversations in theatre lobbies, at the 4th of July picnics and on the street. But I am not a close associate of Bernard's.

He did so much for the industry.

I also have a lot of respect for Bernard Trink. However, in the old days Trink was the object of a lot of jokes and derision. There were very few bars that you could walk in to and visit the latrine without seeing where someone had written Trink the Dink! In those earlier years people would make fun of him and his belt worn up around his chest over a fat stomach and what not. However, all of that changed when he was invited to speak at the FCCT. He spoke at length and then there was a Q&A session after which everyone realised old Bernie was a very intelligent person with a huge library inside his head of happenings in Bangkok.

What's he up to now apart from the obvious, doing book reviews for the Post?

As far as I know, Bernard does just that and that information comes from journalists who work in the Post building. I occasionally see him on Petchaburi Road outside the massage parlour areas but I hesitate to comment or make any assumptions.

I should probably add that all of us serious nightlife bloggers owe a larger or smaller debt of gratitude to Bernard Trink. If he hadn't existed the whole nightlife scene on the Internet would have been a whole lot different.

What's the deal with not accepting advertising on your site? I happen to know at least one person who wanted to advertise on your site and you turned him down.

I do accept a lot of people's requests to link to their site but I don't put any sites on that are overtly oriented towards prostitution even if it may be thinly veiled and I have stated that in the website policy which of course no-one would read. It's probably the most boring page on my website! It's nothing to do with my personal habits <we both laugh loudly!>.

I'd be just as happy if I never stepped in a naughty bar again. Do you think the feelings I have about the industry being nothing like it once was are a fair reflection of where things are at, or do you think this is Stick being overly negative?

I have noticed over the last year or so that more of your comments about the nightlife scene are negative but I have never noticed them to be unfair or unreasonable. My take is that these comments, negative or otherwise, are still generating thought and more importantly are generating a record which hopefully will make it to the future of the nightlife scene and that future picture should include the positive raves and the negative raves.

You're going to see a very negative one this month from me.

Can you give us a small preview?

My working title is, 'A Good Old Boy' and the kicker is, 'On The Good Old Days'. <Laughs loud>. I never give anyone previews. You're the first person I have ever given a preview too!

I'll look forward to reading it!

Let me interject with a question. You mentioned you've been on a downer more than times past. Is your desire to go to New Zealand because of a pull from New Zealand or tiredness of Bangkok, or both?

I think more than anything I have changed and the things I want at this stage of my life are easier to find elsewhere. I want to spend more time outside and be active physically. Health and fitness are really important to me but the environment here is polluted and frankly, it's much too hot much of the year to be really active outside. I want animals and I don't think Bangkok is a great environment for animals. As far as the site goes I have done everything with it I want to. It's a combination of things. Just don't be so sure I am off to New Zealand!

Statistically there are a lot of foreigners who live in Bangkok, return to their homeland and then return again to Thailand.

Who knows, maybe that will be me?! Seriously though, I don't think that's going to happen.

A big percentage of my readership is from people who have been in Thailand for some time and who read the column out of a sense of nostalgia and wish to return. Do you get any of that sense?

I think a lot of readers read to live the Bangkok bar life vicariously. I think in the past more lived here or were regular visitors and participants in the nightlife, but many have since moved on. They still have an interest in it and tuning in every week helps them to relive the good times. The expat bar scene can really get under your skin.

Hey, isn't it me who's supposed to be asking the questions?! So, how long are you going to stick with it? Will you be able to look after my readers when I set off in to the sunset? Let's not forget that the sun sets fasts in this part of the world…

I intend to continue with the website until such time as my future wheelchair breaks down and I can no longer be pushed through Soi Cowboy, or if I do something to offend an incumbent government and I get thrown out on my ear, whichever comes first!





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok


Last week's photo was taken of cleaners on the side of Somerset Lakepoint in Sukhumvit soi 16 with Millennium Tower in the background.


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 – The Bangkok death march.

I've written about why not to judge older punters who chase teenage bargirls, but it's truly been hitting me a bit harder these days for some reason. While I'm told I still look younger than my age, I do FEEL my age, and when I look in the mirror, I realise that things are changing – and not for the better. In any case, I think for most (?) of these older guys, it's about the feeling, perhaps unconsciously, that they're running out of time. After someone turns 60, for example, how many more naughty boy bar trips are realistic to look forward to, and what kind of time are you going to have once you get there? I still prefer the company of a much younger woman versus someone of my vintage, and with each passing day I feel that attracting such a woman is becoming that much more unlikely. Even my own motivation has waned because I don't think I really bring anything to the table for some 20- or 30-something Asian lady. I think guys see and feel themselves falling apart, often in spite of well-meaning efforts to the contrary, and start feeling desperate about being able to enjoy their favorite past-time, one more time, or for one more trip. And while some guys in the P4P game don't care about what's going on in the girl's head post-barfine, I'm sure many do. Certainly I would, and thinking that the girl is shamed or just disgusted that she's with someone older than her dad would take away any enjoyment for me. But I've always tended to over-think things. I'm glad I'm well out of the game, but for me it feels like I've run out of other viable options, too. It's not a pleasant feeling or thought. This lack of options appears to be just one more motivation for older guys who come over in their 60's or 70's for, what shall we call it, "The Bangkok Death March"?

Alcohol to blame.

I think that the main changes in the attitude of bar gogo dancers came about with the arrival of alcoholic drinks becoming the norm in girlie establishments for lady drinks. When we arrived here way back when, all of the girls had the same 5 questions: What's your name? Where you come from? Buy me Cola? Pay bar me? Go hoten you? In those days lady drinks were cola, sprite – soda all non alcoholic – which made for a much better environment with the advent of girls changing to Tequila, bottled beers, Sang Som etc. It has made a lot of the girls more aggressive, maybe jealous. In the late '90s the saying was "You never lose your girl, you only lose your turn". I refuse to buy lady drinks as no-one can explain to me why I should pay extra money to get a bargirl drunk when she is of no use to the bar or the customers. I realise I am in the minority and most bars survive on lady drinks.

Death of the gogo bar?

I see the death of the gogo bar industry. While there are still quite a few people there, their age is late fifties and over. Those guys are dinosaurs. I know hardly anyone that visits a gogo bar to barfine anyone. A couple of beers and a look / laugh at the girls on stage is plenty. Young guys are much happier going to a freelancer disco like Levels or Mixx to get that girlfriend experience. For myself, I wouldn't pay for 99.99% of the girls in the gogo bars these days. They are a dreadful looking bunch. As these older guys die off, so will the gogo bar industry. As you pointed out, there are too many options and the gogo bar experience has become expensive and unattractive, with one exception. Have you seen What's Up Bar in Pattaya? It's already the most unusual and professional bar in the city. About 3 months ago I wandered around with the owner and she showed me her plans for upstairs (another 2 floors). She's adding trapeze acts, spinning poles, hoists, harnesses and aerial acrobat equipment. She's aiming to build the Cirque de Soleil of the gogo bar. Her shows are incredible. There's always something going on. There's a lively, attractive and talented staff. It's the only bar that keeps guests engrossed for several hours as opposed to a drink or two.



A long-time punter opines.

I have been coming to Bangkok for 16 years and have seen many changes. For me the boom years from a punter's point of view were in the early 2000s when prices were low, girls were cute and there weren't the attitude problems encountered now. I feel the downturn started about 4 years ago but things have rapidly gone downhill since then with Cowboy leading the way on sharp practices, rip-offs and high prices. In my view, the bars are ignoring the elephant in room – more girls are turning to freelancing and the internet dating sites, thus cutting out the middle men (the bar owners) by dealing directly with the punters. This way the girls do not have to work every night under sometimes oppressive terms of employment and they have lost at least in part the bargirl stigma but they are still making as much, or maybe even more money. I have met several girls through dating sites and have found them all a pleasure to be with, like the old days you could say. Yes, you do get a few who do not turn up at the appointed time but other arrangements can be made. These girls dress and act more like a typical Thai girl and after a pleasant meal together with no constant pressure for lady drinks, if you get on they will join you in your hotel for a nightcap. Sometimes you have to put a bit of effort into the chase, or maybe that is what the girls want you to think, but this just adds to the fun in my view. In over 4 years I have had 2 no-shows and 1 who sent an SMS an hour before saying she was busy. I have met over a dozen girls and all but 1 ended up back at my hotel. The 1 who did not said I was the first westerner she had met up with from a dating site and I am guessing she got cold feet. Yes, they are still working girls but gone are the rip-offs and the pressures you get in a bar. The girls I have met are from a mix of backgrounds. Some say they have normal jobs and are clearly just dipping a toe in the working girl waters while I am sure others learned their trade in the bars. Standing in a bar holding a chrome pole near naked for 7 hours a night cannot be a lot of fun, especially when you might end up taking home just a few hundred baht for the night. Just as other businesses have found, customers are turning to online providers. The bars need to understand their core business is providing an introduction service for girls and punters. The dancing, shows and drinks are secondary to the main deal going on. Without this core role, the days of their business is numbered.

Sex tourism on the way out.

Thai society (or at least the political masters governing Thai society) loathes the overt, indiscrete nature of the "farang" prostitution industry. However, it is tolerated because of the foreign exchange generated in terms of both tourism (expenditure at hotels, restaurants, bars, etc) and incidental receipts (farangs buying Thais land, houses and other gifts, and providing monthly stipends). I see similarities between Thailand's tobacco industry and the sex tourist industry. Both are high income earners for the country. Both are considered by society in general to be distasteful and unwanted. Gradually, but increasingly, the government of Thailand is receiving pressure from the international community to control both industries with a long-term view to eliminating them altogether. Eventually, perhaps in 25 years time or less, both industries will be defunct.

Service, from both sides of the bar.

First as a restaurateur, I watch my staff from my spot at the bar six nights a week. I am constantly telling them to clear plates, offer drinks, collect bills etc. I'm extremely pleased with my staff and tell them frequently. If they screw up, I make sure the guest is recompensed. Over the years, my team has evolved into a group of smart, English-speaking, service-minded individuals who are prepared to tell me when there's been a mistake, safe in the knowledge that they won't get into trouble nor lose money. I'm also fully aware that on my one day off per week the spend per head drops considerably and the level of tips is lower than the rest of the week. There's only one conclusion – that Thai staff CAN be good, but they need constant supervision. Secondly as a guest, I frequent bars and clubs rather than restaurants (since I finish work at midnight). I tip staff well as soon as I arrive. That ensures the service I receive is excellent all night long.





Girl of the week

Nan, coyote dancer, Club Electric Blue, Patpong
21 years old, from Samut Prakan



Bangkok escort



Bangkok escort



Bangkok escort






Bar bosses are hoping that it's the calm before the storm. Things are quiet, not just in the naughty bar areas but the mainstream bar areas too. Soi 11 seems quiet. You know it's quiet when on your rounds bar owners ask you how the other bar areas are doing – their indirect way of saying, "We're hurting, how is everyone else doing?!"

A ladyboy alert for those who wander along the even-numbered soi side of Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke with ladyboys back loitering in packs. Their MOs remains unchanged as they grab the hand, arm or crotch of males passing by, feigning interest and hoping to distract so they can pickpocket your wallet, phone or other valuables. The hot spot currently is out front of Chuwit Park, a poorly lit stretch of pavement. The other danger area where they are proving a menace is under the stairs leading up to the Asoke BTS station near soi 14 where they tend to congregate later at night.

This coming Friday is Halloween and a number of bars will be celebrating it. At Patpong, Club Electric Blue staff will be in costume, including the farang manager. There will be cash prizes for the girls and 50 baht tequila shots for customers all night long.

Spellbound on Nana Plaza's ground floor will celebrate Devil's Night this Thursday 30th, Witches Night on Friday 31st, and then Halloween on Saturday, November 1st. Come Sunday will they all look be looking like zombies? Expect the action to get scarier each night around the witching hour. There will be special shows in addition to the regular show program, and special music videos for the occasion. The staff may look scary but the manager, raving Dave, tells me they will be as nice as ever. Drink specials include Devil's Concoction, Witch's Brew as well as their signature Spellbound Cocktail for just 100 baht.

Down in Pattaya, Heaven Above will celebrate Halloween over 3 days from Wednesday to Friday. The bar will be decorated and each night the staff will be in costume and even scarier than usual. There will be drink specials on each of the 3 nights and a free BBQ on Friday, October 31st. Customers are encouraged to go in costume and join the fun. Heaven Above is located on Soi Diamond, just off Walking Street.

Crossbar on Sukhumvit soi 23 has a new Friday Special, the Long Island Lethal Libation. Beware, it's the equivalent of 6 Long Island Iced Teas made with quality spirits – Smirnoff, Gordon's Bacardi, Sierra Tequila & Triple Sec and is served in a 1-litre jug, priced at 1,200 baht. It is for 1 – 4 people sharing. A second jug is discounted to 800 baht so 2 litres would set you back 2,000 baht. Just as well it's a Friday-only thing so you have the weekend to recover from it.

Every Tuesday, Bangkok's oldest Mexican restaurant, Charley Brown's, in the sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 11, holds its half price margarita and sangria night. They've added a magician who performs card tricks, mind-reading and other tricks that leave guests (and staff) open-mouthed.

The Land of Smiles Ice Hockey Classic 2014 will take place his coming week, starting Tuesday evening and running through until Saturday when the finals take place. The games will be held at Central Rama 9 which is right next to the Rama 9 MRT underground station. The ice rink is up on the 7th floor next to Major Cinema and Fitness First. Entrance is free. There are 34 teams in total with divisions including Open, Recreational, Asian and Women. Proceeds from player fees as well as 50% of funds from lottery and other fundraising will be donated to Father Joe's. Light House on Soi Cowboy is a new sponsor this year and will host a Thursday night hockey party with a pig roast reported around 8:30 PM. A dance contest will take place that night, some time around 10:30 PM.



Gogo bars have between 2 and 4 sets of dancers. While one set is on stage, ladies in the other sets roam the bar looking for customers. Sometimes the sets are sorted by the general attractiveness of the ladies; sometimes they are organised by how much girls are willing to wear or not wear, on stage. I am convinced that in Shark Bar in Soi Cowboy they divide the dance sets by breast size. Popping by for a quick look this week, one set of dancers could reasonably be called the plastic surgeon's customers, and the other set could be called ironing boards.

Street vendors are back on Sukhumvit. Their absence was very short-lived and like so many things in this city at present, things change from day to day.

The beaches on Phuket feel much more open since the coup. The army ordered the bulldozing of all the beachside restaurants which had been built on public land. They also ordered all beach chairs and umbrellas removed. Mixed feelings have followed. The beaches now look as they were in the early '80s before tourism in Phuket took off. On the other hand, it is so hot that most don't want to lie on the beach in direct sun all day long – and who doesn't like to relax at a beachside eatery? Some restaurants which had been operating for over 20 years old were bulldozed with 24 hours warning. Amongst the demolished properties was the best reggae bar on Bangtao Beach, long a haven on Sunday afternoons for local expats and their families.

There is no shortage of interesting postings in the Thai language forums which give a real insight in to stuff you don't otherwise hear about. It can be slow going, but spend enough time and you always come across something. The most interesting post I read this week was about a "special service" offered by some (I would assume a very small and limited number of) taxi drivers who help drunk drivers past police checkpoints. Locals know that police checkpoints usually shut up around 3 AM or so. With most nightspots closing at 2 AM, revellers tend to drift off home soon afterwards and come 3 AM there's much less traffic on the roads. These days the police take drink driving more seriously and some checkpoints remain in force through the night. What these entrepreneurial taxi drivers do is park nearby police checkpoints and keep an eye out for drivers stopping their car before they actually get to the checkpoint. The taxi driver then approaches the car driver and offers to drive the drunk driver home past the checkpoint. Drink driving is a much bigger deal in Thailand these days with hefty fines, community service and maybe even jail time. Amazingly – to me, at least – the scofflaw attitude seems to be more a female thing and a few lone females have bragged about getting past police checkpoints. I find it interesting that these women are willing to ride in a taxi alone while drunk late at night, something most would never have dreamed of doing in the past. They are drunk and willing to get in to a taxi with a driver who is essentially helping them avoid the police rather seems that they are putting themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.



The new super large LCD screen installed at the Asoke intersection above Citibank must be the largest and brightest screen in all of Thailand. It lights up the entire intersection, doing away with any need for streetlights and is absolutely blinding!

There is a misconception that Thailand is going to be flooded with foreign labour come the first day of 2015 when the ASEAN Economic Integration comes in to effect. The borders will *not* open up for the free movement of labour within the region at all. If this was to happen, wealthy cities with lots of jobs – Bangkok is the classic example – would be flooded by hundreds of thousands seeking work. The city would not be able to cope. Other countries in the region have lower wages than Thailand, in some cases substantially lower, but at the same time their citizens have a better command of English with survey after survey showing it is the Thais who have the weakest English in the region. This means that those in neighbouring countries are ideal candidates for the service industry. Do you think the Thais would allow them to so easily take Thai jobs?! An open border labour policy would be carnage for Thai employees as foreigners with better English who may be better suited to service roles and who have lower salary expectations would flood the market. Thailand is highly protectionist and is not going to allow citizens of other countries in the ASEAN region with a combined population of well over 400 million who earn less than the average Thai to flood in. There will be the free movement of skilled labour although just how skilled labour is defined remains unclear. And to those who thought there would be small armies of females from neighbouring countries coming in to the bar industry to replenish the stocks, think again. That is NOT going to happen.

I hate to be cynical and I hate to be negative, but I often think the only way many Thais in business can compete with foreign companies offering a similar or the same product is to cheat, trick, misrepresent or put in place rules and laws that make it so it is not a level playing field.



Halloween in Bangkok










Quote of the week comes from a Bangkok celebrity, "First the Square, then the Londoner, what next? If Bar Bar goes as well, I might as well go back to Connecticut and shovel snow." Who said this? Fire me an email if you think you know who!

Reader's story of the week is another guy getting involved with the wrong girl disaster story, " How To Get My Life Back?"

Pattaya was hit by torrential rain and flooding last Sunday afternoon.

A study estimates that foreigners married to Isaan ladies inject 8.67 billion baht in to the Isaan region annually.

A proposed 125-storey tower in Bangkok would make it the world's second tallest building.

An Aussie tourist is mauled by a tiger at Tiger Kingdom in Phuket.

A 24-year old British woman dies during plastic surgery in Bangkok allegedly performed by someone not certified to carry it out.

With plans to change Pattaya, everyone's favourite tattooed bodybuilder, Sharky, is outspoken about Sin City.

PhuketWan reports that a jet-ski gang scammed some Aussie tourists of 50,000 baht.





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 have a condo I rent out in Waterford Diamond on Sukhumvit soi 30/1 and my long-term tenant is getting peeved off as the building is letting out units on a daily rather than a monthly basis. He feels that the place is becoming like a hotel more than a home and the once peaceful pool has become a nuisance to use. They have set up a separate counter to service this extra trade and I can't help feel that this year's substantial jump in maintenance fees is going towards funding this. It seems a lot of owners are not amused by these goings on. Also, people on holidays tend to be a little more boisterous than those living and working which can be unfair on long-term residents. My own feeling is that there is nothing illegal going on but it annoys me nonetheless. A few years ago they let out the gym area to a company called Balance who set up a great gym. However, for condos of less than 80 square metres only one person was granted free use and extra persons had to pay 7,000 baht per year. I just feel that the management of this building are taking the you-know-what out of the owners. It would be interesting to know the thoughts of Sunbelt Asia on this.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: First, the bylaws of the condo where you live would need to be checked to see if they actually forbid renting out units on a daily basis. Also, be sure and check any rules implemented by a condo committee. There are cases where they bylaws will make it clear that this is not allowed and if your condo's bylaws do actually forbid this then you would need to collect evidence in regards to which apartments are being rented daily and by which owners and at what rates, for example photos of the ads.

You would then need to check the bylaws about how to call an owner's meeting to address the issue. Voting could be difficult if a large number of owners are profiting from the rentals and could vote against any action. Enforcement could also be difficult if the owners are using agents to find guests.

If the daily guests are causing a disturbance then you can file a formal complaint with the condo juristic management as their job is to ensure the atmosphere of the condo building remains peaceful. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you in reviewing the bylaws and advising you on further steps with the condo management.








Nana Plaza


I liked what Will of BangkokEyes said about his website becoming a historical archive of the bar industry, something which may happen to this site in time too. With that in mind, seldom do I go back and edit past columns, typos and anything that proves to be factually incorrect aside. Having said that, if you go back you might discover the odd gap, especially the girl of the week section. Some photos have been removed because the lady no longer works. Featured girls are told the photos can be removed any time they wish. The same goes for anyone whose mug shot may end up in the background of a photo. I mention this not for the first time as I notice it is more of an issue and people are much more sensitive about it. Whenever I talk with photographers or webmasters, the topic of people appearing in the background in photos invariably comes up. So, if you happen to appear in any photos in this site, let me know so that part of the image can be blurred. If that is not possible, the photo will be removed entirely. Times are changing and webmasters have to move with them.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Firehouse

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