Stickman's Weekly Column February 15th, 2015

How The Ladies Have Changed

The debate rages on about how the bar scene has changed with many ranting about how much it has deteriorated. At the same time there are a few who claim it is actually better now than ever.

In September, 2004, I was invited to do what would be my first ever bar photo shoot. The location was Hollywood in Nana Plaza, at the time one of the best bars in the plaza.

Attractive ladies aren't the only thing that makes a great bar, but they are a big part of it. Conventional wisdom amongst long-term bar hounds is that the ladies were more attractive in the past. Let's see if these photos support that.

It might be just over 10 years ago, but Thailand was a very different place.

Thaksin Shinawatra was Prime Minister.

Phuket, along with many parts of coastal South-East Asia, had yet to be scarred by the Boxing Day Tsunami.

Bar drinks lists included Kloster, Carlsberg and some even had Tetley's Smooth Flow.

In 2004 Hollywood was one of the most popular in all of Bangkok. It was one of few Nana Plaza gogo bars with a happy hour and being one of the largest bars, there were more than a hundred dancers on a busy night.

My weapon was a Canon 20D with a whopping 8 megapixel sensor for which I had just paid a cool 69,000 baht. The girls were eager as I tried my hand at bar photography for the first time.

There was a decent argument that after Rainbow 1 and 2, Hollywood was the best bar in the plaza. It was packed most nights and Nana Plaza gogo bar owners can only dream about taking the sort of money Hollywood took night after night back then.

I remember the stream of girls coming in and looking for work. One of the mamasans would bring over the poor girl who invariably had never worked anywhere with neon lights and chrome poles before. She would offer the farang manager a wai so deep that you'd think he owned the entire plaza. Well, Hollywood was on the top floor and it was a huge bar. He would look at her and make the decision to hire her or not in a split second. A quick shake of the head meant she was not up to scratch looks-wise. If she looked ok, he'd ask her if she spoke English. If she said yes she was hired. If she uttered an alai na or something similar he would send her out the door.

Hollywood was a popular hangout for many of the manager's friends. Lecherous Lee would be there most nights and The Dirty Doctor was a regular. Some of Bangkok's best known expat fiction writers popped by whenever they were in the plaza.

The girls had a tendency for bright, sometimes garish colours with their makeup.

My initial impression when looking over these shots was that the girls hadn't made nearly as much effort to dolly themselves up as girls do today. They may look natural, but at the same time they look plain.

How many of these ladies have been under the knife. Can you spot even a single nose job?

Thai plastic surgeons may be world-class, but many Thais have a distinctive look and when they go for a more Caucasian look it doesn't always come off – and you can tell they have been under the knife.

Thank goodness, there are none of the ridiculous over-sized bags of silicone.

In some bars today there are almost as many fake breasts as there are girls.

And speaking of unnecessary enhancements, how many tattoos have you spotted so far?

What about coloured contact lenses or cosmetic teeth braces that are so popular in the bar environment today and, for some unknown reason, particularly popular with coyote dancers?

I have always said natural is best.

I have old-fashioned ideas when it comes to tattoos and plastic surgery and cannot imagine choosing to be operated on to change your looks. Cosmetic surgery turns me off. I have always felt it so unnecessary that a lady chooses to change what is natural to try and make herself more attractive.

Let's take a break from the ladies for a moment.

Voice – as I used to call him – was a long-time fixture at Hollywood. He moved to G Spot before disappearing from the plaza altogether some years ago.

He had a distinctive voice and as he thrust one hand out to shake yours he would use the other to pull back the curtain at the entrance of the bar and in a hearty, if raspy voice would say his signature line, "Take care your wife!"

Rainbow 4 aside, is there any bar in Bangkok today where you would find this many flat stomachs?

Where are all of the, what's the PC term, fuller-figured dancers?

OK, so she has a tattoo, but it's small and looks homemade.

Not one photo shows a lady with a tattoo from a professional tattooist, and there's nothing like tattoos covering a lady's entire back.

The smiles definitely came easier back then. As I recall the ladies were actually keen to have their photo taken – which is certainly not the case these days.

Point a camera at a lady in a bar today and posing or smiling are often the last things on her mind.

The lovely Da, a star of Hollywood who always had a ready beaming smile. It's rare to find ladies with such genuine warmth and a great attitude in the bars these days.

Attitudes and demeanour may not be measureable, but the impression you get is that of a happy bunch.

And some look like they just wanna have fun!

After the photo shoot proper was over, she wanted to play for the camera and followed us out on to the balcony where the manager and I like to perch, watch the comings and goings in the plaza and ruminate over the industry.

The ladies dressed differently back in the day. Do you see ladies leave the bars dressed like this these days?

This lady has got it spot on in my mind. She looks smart & sexy; what she's wearing does not scream bargirl! Leave the bar with a lady dressed like this and you have options. You could go to a decent eatery or upscale bar. You would feel compelled take a direct path straight to your hotel.

The notion of the girlfriend experience has been lost on most bar workers today. Some opt to leave the bar in garments which appear to be chosen for the speed with which they can be removed – and just as importantly, put back on. Of course that could all be part of her plan – dress in such a way that a customer wouldn't want to be seen dead with her outside the confines of a bar area.

You can just tell that some local girls walking hand in hand with a guy in Bangkok couldn't possibly be anything other than a working girl. But then how often do the girls leave the plaza before bar closing time? These days it's all about going to one of the short-time hotels within the plaza (in many bars the girls are told which short-time hotels are ok to go to and which are not), doing the business, returning to the bar and repeating.

My personal preference has long been for a lady free of tramp stamps, who eschews cosmetic enhancements and refuses to go under the knife. A lady who doesn't dye her hair, have facial piercings or those awful multi-coloured braces on her teeth.

There are slim ladies in the bars these days – but slim today is a little more meaty than the slim of 10 years ago. Where the average weight of a girl considered slim in Bangkok bars 10 years ago may have been around 40 kg, today it's probably more like 45. The difference these days is that it's so difficult to recruit staff managers can no longer be choosy. You get slim girls, but you also get some really big girls. I don't remember seeing such big girls in the bars in the past – and these photos support that. Many bars today – all but the very best – have some well-rounded ladies who would never have danced in the past.

Ladies today appear to make much more effort to look good, which is amusing given that there is so much more demand for them today. It's not that long ago that bar ladies were lucky if they were barfined every other night. In Bangkok gogo bars today even a semi-attractive lady can expect to be barfined multiple times per night.

I have always preferred the natural look – and these ladies who worked in one of the most popular Nana Plaza bars 10 years ago are more natural than what you find in the bars today. But do they look as good as the 2015 vintage?

I believe that if you showed a genuine neutral – someone who didn't know Thailand or Thai ladies at all – photos taken of Thai bargirls from the '70s through to the present, the most recent entrants in to the industry would be considered the most attractive; those from the '70s the least attractive. If this is indeed the case, how can we explain that things were better in the past when the raison d'être for going to the bars is the ladies?

A lady who is sweet, charming and polite is generally more appealing, right? Does a warm demeanour perhaps make us think a lady is more physically attractive than she really is?

Looking at photos of ladies from the bar industry in the past – both this set of shots and others all over the net – there's little doubt that Thai barladies from the past were slimmer and have a more natural look. But were they really more attractive than the ladies in the bars today?

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken on the large pedestrian bridge connecting the Chongnonsee BTS station with Narathiwat

(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 Don't look back.

I agree with you that times are changing rapidly, and the whole idea of Bangkok as a cheap fun place for sex tourists is really rather silly now. No-one is here on a hardship posting, and no-one needs to be lonely because they can't be in touch with friends, family and girls back home. The whole bar scene catered, surely, to lonely GIs first and then white men exploiting the currency differential. Now I don't see the appeal and from what you write neither does nearly everybody else! Of course, there will always be a few bars and a few bar hoppers, but it simply is crap now, and talking about it is pretty dull too. You've made the right choice – move on, do something different, perhaps utilise your photo archive into a sort of history of Bangkok in your years here, but move on. I loved the really mad days – 1996-2001 for me – but I am so happy to have found a life beyond. I have never looked back.

Knowing when it's time to go.

I recall reading your interview with Bernard Trink some 11 years ago and, in subsequent years, hoping that you wouldn't end up like him, living out your senior years in a country where you'd never be accorded equal footing with the locals. Congratulations on making the choice to escape while you still have your wits about you and hopefully many years left to formulate a much better future for yourself than if you chose to stay in Bangkok. Your assessment that the end of your column will be well-timed is one with which I agree. However, I'm probably not the only one who's hoping that by early next year I'll be able to walk into Kinokuniya and pick up a copy of Stickman Un-Italicized. I'd guess that – especially in recent years – you've encountered some recommendations as to what shouldn't be included in your column. It would sure be interesting to read some of the insider tidbits that you might not have been able to share in your column over the years. Thank you for many years of enjoyable reading, and for providing a venue for others to share their experiences. Whatever your choices are going forward, I wish you all the success in the world.

From fun and adventure to something different.

Sad, but expected news that you will be moving on. You have been an inspiration and a guide to many. I visited Thailand on a yearly basis when you first came here. It was a time of adventure, daring deeds and growth. Unfortunately it is now a time of greed and money. The bars and gogos then were fun, finding a short-time girlfriend and adventure. Now, simply put, they are a rip-off. I have met so many semi and full time expats who are so disillusioned with Thailand that they have already moved or will soon too leave.

You can lead a horse to water…

Over the years you have openly and truthfully told bar managers and bosses for their own good that they need to improve their services dramatically. Now they are the victims of their own greed. I don't think the majority understand what an important tool your column is, soon to be was. If only they had listened and acted. It just makes me think that some of them, given their attitude, might think that when your column is put to bed things will return to the good old days, because there is no longer a voice to tell the masses that things in barland ain't that good. You proved you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink!

Not interested even if they were free!

Looking through your column this week, I have to say that the quality of ladies represented in your costume feature is just another reason to say goodbye. Even the girl of the week wouldn't have turned many heads back in our day and those in the uniforms could not interest me, even at my age, and even if their ministrations were offered for free. That there are guys who would pay good money for their short-time affection is more than a bit depressing. It makes me feel like my standards are too high!

An old scam refuses to die.

I went to Patpong to visit some bars, in particular, Club Electric Blue and The Strip. I went to both and had good experiences. I was walking out of the area and decided to check out one more bar. I had a few drinks, eventually decided to leave, got the bill of 500 baht, paid with 1,000 baht, waited … and waited for the change. After a few minutes the woman who took my money came to me and asked what I wanted. I said "I am waiting for my change." She said that I paid the exact amount for the bill. Uh-oh! We went back and forth, she saying that I had given her 500 baht and me saying that I had given her 1,000 baht. More and more staff joined in, apparently to defend her. It wasn't until I pulled out all of the money in my pocket that she, surprisingly, pulled 500 baht out of her pocket and gave it to me. I didn't really think that I would win the disagreement. As soon as she gave me the money I immediately left the bar, thinking that I might get set upon by security guards. Fortunately, that didn't happen. I hope that you and possibly your readers can somehow learn how to avoid such a situation. I haven't been able to determine how to avoid something like it in the future other than when giving a waiter / waitress payment, verify when giving money to them make sure that both agree what they are receiving. Even when doing that, it might not work. I am open to ideas for solutions. <Audibly say the denomination of the banknote to the server when you hand it over and get them to acknowledge it, but even that is no guarantee of not being cheatedStick>

Taxi to Pattaya.

I took a taxi from Cowboy to Pattaya yesterday. The driver wanted 1,600. I said 1,300 and we settled on 1,400. Not long after we set off he decided to use the meter, which was okay with me as I'd read it should be about 1,300. And it was. Funny. He laughed too. Not a bad driver – kept to 110 km/h all the way and drove well – unlike a taxi I saw in a ditch with its top half completely sliced off. I doubt if anyone survived that. It is difficult to live without a head.

More farang taxes.

I got an SMS from my Thai language school yesterday afternoon asking me to go there immediately. I went at 10 AM this morning. I was told there are new visa rules and that I have 2 options. First, go to Immigration myself, pay 1,900 baht and I will only get a 15 day stamp. Then someone will check to make sure I'm in class and I can go back 15 days later to get a 75 day stamp. The second option is that I pay the school 5,000 baht and they will take my passport to Immigration for me and I will get a stamp for 90 days. I was asked what I want to do. Pay 5,000 more easy for you believe me, she said. It felt like a total scam! I said let me think and I walked across the street to Big C Extra and called my Aussie friend. He got the SMS too and was told the same by the school. I'm going to pay the 5,000 but it feels so dodgy! Also, the checkpoints here in Pattaya are out of control! I drive through them when I can. I had my shirt neck grabbed last Saturday and I went past one. I have paid 500 baht 3 times at checkpoints since the new year! I always have a helmet on and my Thai license with me. It's just easier to give 500 and go. My Dad tells me don't worry about it. He calls it a tax for living in Thailand.

Girl of the week

Daisy, escort exclusive with PureBangkokEscorts

From Suphanburi, she is sweet and charming in a style Thai men love.

Pure Bangkok Escorts

The deal for the classic Patpong soi 1 bar looks like it is off. The landlord has asked a premium for the lease and the gentleman behind the proposed project feels that the asking price it would not be viable.

Someone needs to tell the owners of a certain Nana Plaza that a bald, heavily tattooed farang guy on the door barking out at passersby will probably have the complete opposite effect of what he is trying to achieve and put people off entering rather than entice them inside. It's never good to be a copycat but the method used at Cowboy where pretty girls call passersby a handsome man might be a nonsense – but it's better than what happens on the top floor of Nana.

PlaySkool on Nana Plaza's ground floor will host a Rock & Rolla Party next Sunday, February 22nd. Leo, Chang and Singha will be just 100 baht and there will be free Black Crack shots. Special shows will be performed throughout the night with a competition for the best and sexiest air guitarist – ladies only. There may be a few wet T-shirts near the naughty bubble girls area…which when I asked what this meant I was told I would have to see it for myself! Captain Hornbag promises the night will feature the best in classic rock as PlaySkool goes back to its roots.

The raid at M Club reported in last week's column concerned something which has long been the Achilles heel for Pattaya bars chasing afternoon trade – short-time rooms on the premises. Bonking booths on the premises of bars are illegal. The cops must have really wanted to make a point at M Club because in what was a first – I have NEVER heard of this happening before – the owner, who was held in police custody for more than 24 hours, was also given grief over the sale of alcohol between 2 PM and 5 PM. It was my understanding that the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol between 2 PM and 5 PM only applied to retail outlets like supermarkets and convenience stores. The licensing authorities say otherwise. If the sale of alcohol really is not allowed for 3 hours each afternoon it could cause mayhem for bars open at that time. Interesting times; more than ever I would not want to be a bar boss these days.

Club 4, another of the many establishments in Pattaya with rooms on the premises, was raided this week in a continuation of police, military and the licensing authorities carrying out raids side by side. Word is out in Pattaya that customers on the premises when a bar is raided have been taken to Pattaya Police Station where their details are recorded and they are photographed, irrespective of whether they have ID / their passport on their person at the time of the raid or not. OK, so they are released soon after without charge, but just what happens to their mug shot?

You'd need to have nerves of steel to run a bar on Pattaya's soi 6 – which, of course, is known for bars with rooms upstairs. In fact the business model is about the convenience of on the premises action. An estimated 80% of the naughty bars in soi 6 are foreigner-owned and most owners are scared shitless about the current climate and busts taking place in Sin City. For the time being customers can't go upstairs unless they are well-known to the bar – and even then the bar staff worry like mad. Customers are encouraged to take a lady away from the bar if they would like to get to know her better.

Just as happened in Bangkok's Soi Nana a few years back, some bars in Pattaya's soi 6 are knocking the front wall out to make them open air bars. That the bars are not exactly private any more is another reason the soi is struggling. Come on, who wants to be spotted in soi 6 at all? It may have its fans but the reputation of that soi is the pits.

And the very same issue of illegal short-time rooms on the premises was why Black Pagoda in Patpong soi 2 was visited by a platoon of soldiers and the short-time rooms adjacent to the bar dismantled. Mattresses from the short-time were seen stacked outside the rooms and signs were erected soon after saying "Massage only"!

A small number of bars in Bangkok have rooms on the premises which are only available to trusted long-term customers. There are no signs or any promotion of them. Such rooms tend to be found in older bars and are a throwback to a more laid-back era.

On the subject of short-time rooms on the premises, Lolita's on Soi LK Metro was more than just a house of oral relief – it had perhaps the best – and possibly the most beautiful – short-time rooms in all of Pattaya. Located upstairs, they were something of a secret with the boss paranoid about the cops discovering them. Tom, who is sadly no longer with us, installed a secret entranceway at the back of the bar whereby you had to slide a hidden panel which was mounted on rails which opened the way to a secret set of stairs leading up to short-time rooms decorated with Vietnamese art. The way Tom led customers to the wall, asked if you noticed anything and then slid it open was like a scene out of a James Bond movie. Thailand is not a place where secrets remain secret for long…but Lolita's was never busted for the upstairs rooms.

Lolita's Pattaya

From the archives, Lolita's in Soi LK Metro which has long since closed.

So how do some of these venues with rooms on the premises cope? Look closely and in some venues you actually have to walk out the front door of an establishment and enter the door of what is technically the building next door from where you go upstairs to where the rooms are. The bar and the rooms are technically in different buildings with a different address – and there is paperwork in place for two separate businesses, with the requisite licenses. Customers going from the bar to the rooms effectively leave one property and enter another, which is not in breach of any law.

The foreign bar areas may be hurting but it's business as usual in Thai-style establishments. They are, however, facing the same difficulties farang bars face in recruiting staff. At Nataree Massage Parlour on Rachadapisek Road – a Thai-style soapy massage parlour particularly popular with foreigners – business was so good this past week that some customers were put in a taxi and taken to a nearby short-time hotel as all of the rooms on the premises were full – which begs the question of how the massage parlours manage to have rooms on the premises. Short answer: licensed massage parlours may have private rooms for massage on the premises.

It's manager Marc's birthday at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy on February 25th. Free shooters, cake, and a few Nanapong-themed surprises. All are welcome!

Sukhumvit soi 22 might be quiet, but a handful of new eateries can be found in the newish Park 22 opposite what was the Queen's Park Hotel. Amongst them is New York Style Steak and Burger, the Bangkok branch of a chic chain with outlets in Shanghai and Beijing. In terms of decor and atmosphere, it's a step up from most Bangkok burger bars. Burgers run 350 – 450 baht ++ and are made using US Angus beef. They are very good but to my palate, I prefer Margarita Storm – where the burgers are much more reasonably priced. New York Steak and Burger is nicely appointed and ideal for a date or when you want to dine in rather more pleasant surroundings than your average Bangkok burger bar.

On the subject of Sukhumvit soi 22, word is that the project to renovate the Queen's Park Hotel has been pushed back 6 – 9 months. As a reminder, the property will be rebranded as a Marriott which could push the soi a little more upmarket. I'm not sure a lot of what you find on soi 22 today would appeal to those who typically stay at Marriott properties.

On the subject of hotels, a Bangkok businessman is looking at building a new short-time hotel in an established bar area. His vision is to create themed rooms and he is looking for ideas for the themes along with any other thoughts on what makes a good short-time hotel. If you have any ideas at all, drop me an email which I will forward to the fellow behind the project. Those ideas he likes will get a one-time use of a short-time room free (girl not included!).

The battleground for farang restaurants in Bangkok is online, specifically at TripAdvisor. Some outlets are so proud of their TripAdvisor ranking that they use it as part of their marketing. More and I more, I find Bangkok restaurateurs comment on the TripAdvisor rating of competing restaurants, particularly those serving similar fare or which are located nearby. There are more accusations of dodgy reviews – writing positive reviews about one's establishment and negative reviews about competitors which results in campaigns for revenge reviews. It's kind of silly, but it's also getting kinda serious as some owners are quite open that they only way they can compete is to slag competitors on Trip Advisor. I've never been a fan of the site because of the potential for abuse and bogus comments and reviews. They ought to consider tweaking the system and all reviews should be accompanied by a scan of the receipt to show that the person commenting really did dine there – but even that isn't a foolproof system.

Over in Phnom Penh, some wise-ass has copied the name of one of the most popular bars in Soi Cowboy – and even gone as far as copying the design of the sign. Incidentally, I am reliably informed that in Phnom Penh there are now around 100 hostess bars which cater primarily to foreign customers.

Special thanks go out to Gavinmac for the photo.

There was much banter in the second half of last year about how those who overstayed would be barred from returning to the country for a period of time, and how anyone who had a particularly long overstay would be blacklisted / banned from ever returning. For a period, some Immigration Department offices required those applying for a visa extension to sign a form stating that they were aware of the penalties for overstaying. These mooted policy changes have yet to become law and some are wondering if they ever will. As best is known, no-one has been barred from returning to the country for a period after overstaying nor have there been any reports of anyone banned due to a lengthy overstay. At least not yet.

I don't normally list properties for sale but a realtor told me of a unit going at such a reasonable price that makes it worth a mention. It's a 101 square metre, one-bedroom front corner unit with pool and sea views in View Talay Residences, right in the middle of Jomtien, 150 metres from the beach and across the road from the fresh food market and the popular Night Plaza. Walking Street is 10 minutes away. It has a large European kitchen, huge bathroom with shower and bath tub, built-in wardrobes and a large wrap-around front corner balcony. The seller has just reduced the price from 4.4 million baht (which was the cheapest one bedroom in the building) to 3.99 million baht. And yes, it is available in a foreign name, which is obviously very important. You can check it out here.

If you are trying to get something done in Thailand and it doesn't look like it's going to happen, think about how the Thais would approach the problem. A mate had ordered the transfer at the start of the month from an account of his abroad but come the middle of this week the funds still hadn't arrived. The overseas bank had stuffed up the account details and the Thai bank would not release the funds in to his account until the foreign bank verified the exact details of the account the transfer was to be deposited in to. After a few frustrating visits to the bank where staff confirmed the transfer but could not release funds, he explained that if the funds were not available in his account that day then his wife and two children would go hungry. The funds finally hit his account and were available at 5 PM that day. He is, in fact, single.

Quote of the week comes from the other half, "Be careful who you piss off in Bangkok because it's as easy to buy a gun here as it is a pen or a pencil."

Reader's story of the week comes from Stick Reader Ian, "An Ordinary Life – Part 2".

A foreigner who held up a foreign exchange booth in Pattaya
is caught by police within hours.

The Bangkok Post ran an editorial this week about the bad attitudes towards and disrespect shown for foreigner

A Frenchman suffers a serious assault in Pattaya as police look for the two female perpetrators.

Chinese tourists are banned from a temple in Chiang Rai after disgusting bathroom manners.

The BBC looks at the dark side of cosmetic surgery in Thailand.

Only in Phuket do the police talk about arresting visitors who take an umbrella to the beach!

The Bangkok Post reports that police have been told not to search foreigners downtown without adequate

A Turk armed with 2 pistols is gunned down on Ko Samui by an armed security guard.

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 are working on a new language school which we hope to open before Songkran. My wife claims that the signage should be in Thai because if it is in English we have to pay tax on the signage but if it is in Thai
we do not. This sounds awfully strange to me – actually, it doesn't make any sense at all – so I would like to ask you if there is any truth in what she says about the language a business's sign is in attracting tax or otherwise.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Your wife is referring to the "sign tax" that is implemented by local authorities. It is possible for the sign to be only in English but the tax is considerably higher than if it were in both languages. The cheapest option for this tax is a sign only in Thai. The next option is for the sign to be in both Thai and English (or other language) but the Thai language must be above the English. Finally, the most expensive is a sign only in English (or other foreign language) or for the Thai language text to be below the English. However, it is important to note that the font size for the Thai text can be smaller than the English. If you drive around your business district you can see examples of signs with this format.

The rates are:

– For signs with only Thai language, it will be 3 baht per 500 square centimetres;

– For signs with a combination of Thai language and other language or pictures, it will be 20 baht per 500 square centimetres;

– However, signs without any Thai language or signs where the Thai language text is below the foreign language, the tax is 40 baht per 500 sq cm.

– The minimum tax that can be imposed on a sign is 200 baht per sign even if the tax rate calculated on the actual size is less than 200 baht.

Question 2: My Thai wife and I are here on holiday and things between us are rocky. She threatened to stay in Thailand and keep our young child here with her. I feel our marriage is
over. I am considering taking our son and going back to the US without telling her. I understand I would be in trouble with both the Thai and the US authorities. I don't care about the Thai authorities. If I do this it means I can never return.
In the US, I would take my chances with divorce and visitation rights, and pay whatever price for what I did (as long as it would not prevent me from visitation rights). Then at least in the US, she cannot take our child out of the US without
permission. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Thailand considers parental custody issues a civil case and parental abduction is not a criminal case. International laws do regulate parents travelling alone with children and airlines and / or Immigration may ask for the following if you are travelling alone with your child and they feel there are travel or legal irregularities that are a cause for concern:

– A copy of the mother's ID card and the birth certificate.

– A notarized letter from the mother giving permission for you to travel with the child. The letter must include her address, phone number, authorization to travel, the destination and the length of stay. This needs to be translated into English as well.

If your child has a US passport and is travelling with you then generally they will not question the child travelling with you, especially if you both have the same last name. However, if the child has a Thai passport this will most likely be a flag for both Thai and US Immigration.

It is possible for the mother to go to the courts to prevent the child from leaving the country and if this were to happen, Immigration would inform all checkpoints to stop the child from exiting the country. Most likely this would not result in arrest but they would turn you back.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that you consider a legal divorce and mediated visitation rights in this case.

Thailand coyote

Last week's column was, I will be the first to admit, one of the weakest in some time. I just couldn't find the words to describe the ladies I photographed and with not a lot going on the news section was awfully flat. I usually have a good idea when a column comes together and when it doesn't, but the proof is in the amount of emails I receive – and Sunday last week the email response was really low! With a bit of luck this week's is a better read.

Your Bangkok commentator,