They started off angry, abuse soon followed before they ramped it up to outright threats. Each was not just a non-native English speaker, they all spoke really crap English. A Russian, a Greek and a Thai. Who were they? Just another 3 people I had inadvertently pissed off.
A couple of months ago I was informed that an ebook was being sold on Amazon with material copied from this site. The book, if you could call it that, was an abomination of a work. It comprised large excerpts copied and pasted from this site and others directly in to a Microsoft Word file. The fonts hadn't been changed and it was all tied together with the most appalling prose. It may have been amateur hour at its worst, but amazingly Amazon actually published it.
I contacted Amazon about it and they pulled it immediately. I thought that would be the end of that. I was wrong.
I would soon receive email from the author, a belligerent fellow with a Greek name, claiming that there was nothing wrong with the book and that copyright did not apply.
Amazon had informed him that the only way the book could be relisted was for the original complainant to give the ok. That would be me. For that to happen, he wouldn't just have to edit the book, he would effectively have to write an entire new book.
Email after incoherent email came from the Greek, his tack changing by the hour. One moment we're going to be best buddies and talk about Cambodian pussy and get drunk together when he's next in Thailand. In the next email I'm an asshole. He jumped from friend to foe, changing tack as soon as he realised one approach didn't work. It was like four seasons in one day.
And then he played his trump card. He told me he was a commercial pilot with an airline operating out of LAX and he could get me cheap airfares. All I had to do was remove the block on Amazon. I did something I almost never do and I Googled him. God damn, he really is a commercial pilot. * To the many readers of this site in LA (probably only Bangkok and Singapore have more readers), if you're on an American airline and the pilot has a Greek name, the guy in the cockpit might just have the morals of a crack-addicted hooker.
After tirades of abuse, he announced that he was going to sue. Does that make him more American than Greek? It was of course hot air.
The emails continue to come in, and the threats get more and more colourful.
I put him on the blocked email list.
I almost deleted his first email because it was sent in Cyrillic text. But three words at the top in English caught my eye, Stickman Please Read. Gmail provides a quick and easy way to translate emails sent in other languages and I assume he knew that so I clicked on translate and read.
Online translators aren't quite there yet and the English translation was mangled. What I could make out was that he was a Russian in Thailand who had a grievance with me. Most people with a grievance are angry at negative words said about the bar industry but this was something new. This time I was being blamed for the disappearance of his son.
You can't read too much in to the tone of an email from a non-native speaker, and especially when it has been through a computerised translator, but it was clear he was not happy. As best as I could work out, I was being accused of posting a photo which had somehow caused his son to disappear.
The whole situation was as weird as it was unclear, but the guy was obviously distressed so I replied asking which photo he referred to and said I'd be happy to remove it.
I heard nothing for a week until the next email a week later, again in Russian. There was no reference to the offer to remove a photo, and no request for any action to be taken. The tone had deteriorated. It was threatening.
At that point I decided it was pointless to engage the fellow. I didn't understand the issue and the willingness I had shown to help had been ignored. I just ignored the email and didn't respond.
Over the course of the next few months I received a stream of emails, spaced about 2 or 3 weeks apart. The emails deteriorated in to abuse. The threats got nastier. Was he unhinged? Was he a crazy? Or was there, perhaps, a bottle of Vodka sitting beside the keyboard?
The guy said he was going to find me and hurt me. Anyone with half a brain could find me in 24 and certainly no more than 48 hours if they really tried. He obviously wasn't looking for me at all. He was trying to scare me, I guess, but it wasn't working. I was more curious as to what he saw as the end game.
Was it a scam? If it was, how would he benefit? Was he trying to scare me in the hope I would offer money to make the threatening emails go away? Was the person behind the emails even a Russian? I know of a German operating similar scams in Jomtien. Was it him? Was it some nutjob typing emails in English (or some other language) and then translating them in to Russian, posing as a Russian?
Gmail translated his last email as follows:
You stay in New Zealand's best for you
You to fuck my marriage, and you return to Thailand
We went on a dick before fucking asshole
You put this story in your fucking dealer weekly
tell people how you lie and tell them, you fucking asshole
I'm sure a lot of people already know you do not have a hell of a good man
one day he will come back to haunt you
You smell shit more than
and we have the name you fucking asshole
Mangled English translations which border on being meaningless.
While these silly emails were coming in I saw the action movie The Equalizer in which Russian Mafia in America set about getting revenge against the main character, Denzel Washington. For a brief moment it made me wonder who I was up against!
I firmly believe in the notion that small problems not attended to can become big problems and big problems in Thailand can become giant-sized, often unsolvable problems. On the one hand you don't want things to linger, but on the other you can't clarify the issue or reason with someone sending crazed emails who doesn't respond to your requests for clarification.
I recently went back and browsed over the emails trying work out what the clown was about. They were full of inconsistencies which could perhaps be explained by mangled translation. It seems that his grievance is that he appeared in a photo on the site which, he claims, was seen by his wife who, he says, as a result of that, left him and took their son with her. If true – and it's very unlikely that it is – the clown was blaming someone else for being caught philandering.
Most likely it was one of the Russian scammers in Pattaya trying to find an easy mark.
I put him on the blocked email list.
Given the content of this site and the focus of this column, it is perhaps a little surprising that I receive a good few emails from Thais. Perhaps even more surprising is the profile of those Thais – usually female and well-educated. Their English tends to be structured, suggesting they have learnt it formally. But not all Thai women who email match that profile…
Last year I profiled Bangla Road in Phuket, the heart of Phuket's nightlife industry. The photo essay was well-received by both readers and Phuket locals.
To bring balance to Bangla, the photo essay was not entirely about the bars in Bangla and some shots showed folks who had nothing to do with the bar industry and amongst them, an artist who is a fixture on the soi. There was no inference that the artist was in any way associated with the bar industry, other than that she painted on Bangla Road.
The artist became aware of the photo which showed her working and sent an email asking that it be removed. I was online when the email came in and removed the photo immediately and let her know. A brief apology was made.
A flood of emails followed about how terrible it was that she had been photographed on Soi Bangla, in the vicinity of prostitutes!
She happens to work on Bangla Road, the epicentre of sex tourism on Phuket, every night. So it's ok to work on the street next to bars and amongst prostitutes, close to what is probably the most photographed part of Phuket – Soi Bangla's streetside ladyboy shows – but she doesn't want to appear in any photos because that could be damaging to her reputation! Ah, right.
The emails came thick and fast. She was worried her reputation would be damaged in Europe.
I sent another email apologising for any concern and told her not to worry as the photo had since been removed and pointed out that she moved in art circles where almost anything goes. If anything, she'd be admired for happily working amongst prostitutes and in liberal Europe that would be more a badge of honour than something to be concerned about.
At this point she reverted to type, telling me that she was Thai, I was a foreigner and she was going to make big problems for me. She went on to say that she has many police friends and even told me the nickname the police use for her. She could cause me a big pompom, she said. It was all straight out of the Thais Play The Farang Handbook.
It should be pointed out that this could have got mildly interesting had I been in Thailand. Mildly. It's unlikely anything would have come of it, but it could have, especially if she had made the complaint official.
If you wish lay an official complaint with the police, you provide a statement and also your ID card (or in the case of foreigners, a passport). You will be asked to sign that statement. At that point it is official, a case number is soon provided and the police are duty-bound to investigate. But here's where things get interesting. In what would seem to be a measure to dissuade vexatious complaints, if a complaint is made and it is found to be groundless, the person who made the initial complaint can find themselves being sued by the person or entity they made the complaint against for making false allegations – and that can be serious. So if you are going to make a complaint you had better be certain about it. Thais know how the system works and are never shy to make threats about going to the police.
Back to Miss Artist, there were shades of the Greek with emails coming in thick and fast and shades of the Russian with totally incomprehensible English. A few hours after she sent the first email she eventually admitted that she likes this site. The tirade was over.
Another one joined the blocked email list.
I am convinced that part of the success of this column has been my willingness to engage with readers, to answer questions and be willing to provide thoughts, opinions and generally help out when asked. The downside is that by merely posting a contact email address these nutjobs have a direct line to you and think nothing of blaming you for all the nasty shit that has ever happened to them. I was never particularly concerned about these crazies in the past, but have to admit that there is a wee bit more peace of mind now that I am operating remotely.
* On the subject of whackos, coming in the next few weeks is an update on the prince of idiots, the one some called Dirty Keith. Has there ever been someone so crazy, someone who loved Thailand so much but who became so deranged that he effectively signed his own deportation order? An update on the prince of idiots' latest antics is coming soon!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the door of Kangaroo Club in Patpong. Just 3 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 – Refusing to be one of those guys.
I was concerned that you were going to end up another sad old bar hand, and I'm relieved you have decided to move on, in a way that really seems to be the best of all worlds. You get to live near friends and family in a beautiful location where press freedom and personal security are guaranteed, you get to sell your site and thus monetize your intellectual property appropriately, and through your extensive contacts, you get to continue in the role of compiler of info and commentator with your inimitable style. It really can't be better can it?! I applaud your decision and wholeheartedly agree with it.
Losing its shine.
I agree with and applaud your decision to pack up. Thailand has quickly deteriorated into a shambles, a victim of its own success so to speak. 15 years ago, the internet was still a fledgling and the masses had no idea what Thailand had to offer. As the internet became more widespread, along with disposable income, tourists flooded in, sans tour bus and were quickly exploited and every last satang whisked from their pockets. This in turn drove more greed. Prices have increased exponentially and the tourists keep coming, all looking for their own piece of LOS. I used to travel there many times each year. The last 3 years has seen me return twice per year and not at all in 2015. Apart from golf, the place has lost its shine in so many ways. Even my Thai missus doesn't even really want to return as often as we used to, opting for a USA or Europe trip. Very happy to see the site will remain though!
Knowing when it's time to go.
You know what makes living overseas really special? Enjoying it until you don't, and knowing when that is and making a timely exit. Don't do as one of your correspondents did and stay there 30+ years putting all your eggs in one rather filthy basket.
The perfect setup.
Doing your column from New Zealand sounds like a perfect setup. You will still have the freedom to travel, whereas most working stiffs are confined to their cubicles 50 weeks out of the year. Maybe some all expenses paid travel story assignments to exotic lands will come your way. I did a few and loved it, not for the pay but for the fun.
Maybe a Western wife wouldn't have been so bad?
Interesting to see this long journey play out. I also went home 5 years ago, and have not regretted it as Thailand falls deeper in to what looks like a military dictatorship. Here I have an opportunity to buy a house, save for retirement and build wealth, all of which, I could not do in Thailand. Most of the friends I knew best have left too. I brought my Thai girlfriend here, and now she's my wife. It's been great, but it's also a struggle. I've had to pay thousands of dollars to Immigration and help her with almost everything. I do often wonder, now that I'm a little older, if it wouldn't have been better to marry a western woman after all.
Constable Farang goes high-tech.
The farang cop in Pattaya pulled me over a couple of days ago. The fool literally jumped out from behind parked cars in to the middle of the road to stop me! I take it from his actions he has had plenty of riders fail to stop under his direction so he now physically blocks your path, using moving traffic on the road to make it difficult to ride around him. I was slow to show him my licence and while not insulting him kept asking him questions causing him to lose his temper. He started this shit about “I am a policeman, you don't ask me questions, I ask you questions now show me your licence! You were riding too fast, also if you had hit me you would have gone straight to jail now show me your licence!” As he has carrying on he hit the button on a small box on his chest. “I am recording you! Now show me your licence”. At this point a Thai policeman appeared and said something to him. I didn't catch what he said but I thought to myself, Fxxk I better produce my licence as I don't want trouble from a real policeman. From the way the farang was carrying on I thought he might lose his shit and try to arrest me for not complying with his demands. I reluctantly showed my licence which immediately caused the idiot to calm down. He then went on to lecture me in a much more relaxed calm manner, “See, what's the problem? You have a licence, you should smile, be polite to the police and go on your way.” With that he moved out of my way and let me ride off. I thought to myself what a cockhead. I can only assume the new video recording device only activates if you don't immediately comply has come about from people either trying to evade him or even fire up at him.
On checking on Craigslist businesses for sale, I see there is another street bar for sale between Sukhumvit sois 19 and 21, for 200,000 baht. A friend who is a teacher at the American School on soi 49 was telling me that when he goes to work he used to be able to get fresh orange juice from a street vendor. Due to the military government's crackdown on street vendors this has now gone, but he is able to purchase alcoholic drinks from the street bars that are still serving at 6:30 AM! He won't go to them because of the over-powering smell of urine. The sooner these places are removed the better. I would not mind if Sukhumvit Road was napalmed at 4:00 in the morning.
Only the bar biz is going backwards.
There has been much written by both Stick and submission writers about how much the bar industry has changed over the last 20 years. True, but that's not all. I was sitting at home watching the Premier League football in HD, live from the UK, and it hit me just how much infrastructure in Thailand has changed too. When I first visited my current location in Kalasin province I had to go to a local shop to make a phone call, and to the next village if I wanted to book an overseas call. TV was all local stuff, received via an aerial, and internet was out of the question. Now, I receive HD channels from all over the world, live Premier League coverage of every match is available with English commentary at far less cost than I would pay in the UK. I have high-speed wi-fi in my house and garden and can call many people all over the world for free using Skype or LINE. The bar business may have lost the fun factor for many, but step outside the bars and the improvement has been positive and spectacular.
Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 is sprucing up with a bunch of improvements. New lighting has been installed and an entire new bar frontage is coming. New bathrooms have been installed, new sofas ordered, the ladies will get new changing rooms and a new logo for the bar has been designed. Once the overhaul is complete the Pattaya and Bangkok branches should have a similar look. After nearly 2 years with the cheapest beer of any Bangkok gogo bar, draft beer will be 45 baht during happy hour from 7:30 to 9:30 and after happy hour the price 90 baht – for that you will get a larger, 475 ml (16 oz) glass. During happy hour it's buy 1, get 1 free on all house drinks – gin, rum, vodka, Tequila and whiskey.
Bubbles in Nana reopened just after the last column went to air, last Sunday and is back under the control of the Nana Group. The owners of Bubbles need to give punters a reason to visit and as novel an idea the bubble machine on the balcony outside is, it's hardly reason to choose it over all the other bars. This particular spot has been a commercial failure for several years, its downfall can be traced back to when Johnny The Clock sold it to Peter the Czech. Changing the name of the bar often doesn't help either as there's no chance to build up a brand name. If Bubbles was a relationship, you get the feeling it's at that stage where it's about to go tits up for good. The couple have broken up and got back together a few times already and you just know that the next time they part – or in the case of Bubbles, the next time the lights go out – it's curtains for good.
There's discontent in another top floor Nana Plaza bar run by The Nana Group with the all-ladyboy bar Charades (formerly Cascade) culled of dancers. Some have been moved over to DC 10, which is also owned by the same group, and is also all ladyboy. The level of discontentment amongst the ladyboys in Charades is said to be such that there is talk of breaking away and moving to a new, as yet unopened ladyboy lounge. For the not insignificant number of Nana Plaza punters who are anti-ladyboy this would probably be seen as a positive. It would however be a blow for the plaza as a whole as Charades does well and is profitable – as all the ladyboy bars are believed to be.
Perhaps Nana Plaza should go entirely ladyboy? If ladyboys were brought in from all the other bar areas and the girls in Nana shipped out to Patpong and Cowboy, Nana Plaza could do all ladyboy. There'd be no more confusion and as a business model, it might just be viable.
Is the recently closed Candy Land to reopen soon? That could be contentious for the lease has reverted back to the Nana Group while at the same time the fellow behind Candy Land has a claim to the bar's name. Most of the girls from Candy Land 1 have gone to Candy Land 2 and if what became known as Candy Land 1 was to reopen as Candy Land, it would be awfully confusing as there is no relationship between the two bars. The rumour mill has it that Candy Land 1 might be relaunched as Suckers 2. If it does, will that mean a mix of girls and ladyboys like in Suckers 1?
The developers of Jail Birdz insist it will open next month. I've heard that before.
May is traditionally the quietest month of the year and contacts in the industry tell me things aren't booming but neither are they dying. For the month of May that's a win.
This week one Nana Plaza bar owner paid one hell of a big chunk of key money, electing to pay key money for 6 years instead of the 3 that was being asked for. Full marks to him for optimism but if the bar should go under will he be so grounded?
G might have died but his ways and influence in the plaza survive after his ex was seen strutting through the plaza with a posse of bodyguards. She is said to have given her vocal chords a workout in at least one bar and had quite a rant. G would be proud.
"The Nana Song" appeared on YouTube this week and will become available on iTunes on May 25th. I'm not sure about the background of this catchy tune and video featuring a handsome couple in the Nana area. What I do know is that requests to film inside some bars were turned down. Here's the song which I guess will be added to bar playlists soon.
When I ranted about the criminal class of farangs operating in Bangkok bars in last week's column, I deliberately did not mention Pattaya. I ranted about Bangkok because it is Bangkok that I know best.
Speaking of Pattaya, there's a staff party tonight in Secrets, just off Walking Street. The staff may be a little drunk and there will be free Isaan food for those who can handle it.
Tiger A Gogo has reopened as the intriguingly named Tom Boy A Gogo.
Gentlemen's Club on Soi Diamond is rumored to have been reopened by the Glasshouse people.
Rumour has it that Living Dolls Showcase will close on June 1st. Some girls have been told that the closure will be for a month but at least one girl thinks the closure will be permanent.
Expect to see more Malaysians in Pattaya from mid-July onwards with Air Asia announcing the introduction of flights between Kuala Lumpur and U-Tapao – the airport in Rayong about a 40-minute drive from Pattaya.
Heineken and Tiger bottled beers have been reduced in size with bottles down from 330 ml to 325 ml. How long before Chang, Singha and San Miguel follow suit?
If you play the ThaiFriendly / ThaiCupid / Tinder circuit, keep in mind that that cutey who says she has never met a farang before but suggests meeting on Sukhumvit soi 11, and then starts ordering the good stuff has probably handled more sausage than a German butcher. Heaps of Thai women playing with foreigners online are on the fringes of the bar industry, not working girls per se but not far off. They may not take money directly from guys – and some are aghast at the idea of being paid to spend the night with a guy – while at the same time they're very much on the farang merry-go-round. Those bottles of bubbly she orders may mean another trip to the ATM before the night is over. Be careful what you wish for.
You hear a lot about Thais and foreigners and money, and it's not always positive. When it comes to those in need, genuinely or otherwise, Thais are often very generous. A cause was taken up for a European photojournalist who is leaving Thailand soon and a lot of people gave generously – and those who were the most generous were not foreigners at all, but Thais.
Is Cambodia still the relaxed, laid-back place many Thailand expats think of it as? After gang skirmishes in Sihanoukville earlier this year between rival Russian gangs and apparently also between packs of Russians and Turks, the government sent a bunch of cops down from the capital to Sihanoukville to sort things out. Since then there have been reports of foreigners being deported for overstaying. Whether that's related to what's been happening in Sihanoukville, who knows? For sure, Sihanoukville has developed something of a reputation. And up in Siem Reap there have been reports of cops going door to door, checking visas and work permits. Things really do seem to be changing across the border and this recent activity is very, well, un-Cambodia-like!
I'm in no way religious but I have to admit that there's something about the word angel that gives me that nice warm fuzzy feeling. So I guess that is why it bothers me when Thais so often mis-spell angel as angle.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "While white American women love to say they like their coffee the way they like their men: strong and black, I like my mango the way I like my women: soft, sweet and yellow."
Reader's story of the week comes from Tod Daniels, "Education Visa / Extensions To Go The Way Of The Dinosaur, Dodo Bird; End Of An Era!"
The Post looks at the issue of drink-driving and the (lack of) enforcement of drink driving laws in Thailand.
The Thai PM is talking tough on private hospitals overcharging foreigners.
A short video titled The Economics of Being A Thai Sex Worker appeared online and is not fraught with the usual lies.
The Post reports on what happens when a foreigner is killed in a road accident in Thailand.
The world's cheapest Michelin-stared restaurant is to open a branch in Bangkok.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I am married to a Thai lady. We had a legal marriage at the Amphur. I retired a few months after marriage so I haven't had any earnings to speak of since getting married. We are separating and she is making noises about claiming half of my assets even though they were bought with cash I earned long before I met her. She has a half share in a business with her aunty which she already had when we met, and has started up a few food stalls since we were married. She has moved in to a new house built by her aunty on her land, although I don't know whose name the house / land are now in as she did try to get a mortgage to buy the house. Am I entitled to any of her earnings or profits or half the house she has accumulated since we were married or is it all a one-way thing and the male pays every time? I don't want any of her money or business interests, but I wonder if there is anything I can use as leverage to prevent her trying to claim my assets.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Marital assets are subject to division upon divorce. These are the fruits of personal assets obtained during the marriage. For example, if you have a personal bank account that exists prior to the marriage then this would not be considered a marital asset but the interest obtained from that account would be.
While you cannot stop her from making claims for half of your assets during a divorce, you can defend them by proving that the disputed assets are personal property and were owned prior to the marriage.
As for her joint business with her aunt, it could be considered a marital asset but you would have to prove that the profits generated from the business is the main source of income for you and your wife that supports your family. The real estate would not fall under the concept of a marital asset; if she bought the property prior to her marriage with you then it is her property. If she bought the property while you were married then you would have had to sign a declaration at the Land Office that you were not involved in the purchase and that it would not be considered a marital asset.
If both parties agree to dissolve their marriage then there is a possibility of negotiation. However, if either party refuses to register the divorce then the divorcing party will need to take the case to court and the courts will require that there must be at least one of the ten justifiable reasons present in order to divorce.
Question 2: I am an Australian with a Thai wife (only a Buddhist ceremony so far but marriage at Amphur on the way). I have assets in Australia and in Thailand along with a joint account with my wife in Thailand. Is my current will in Australia valid in Thailand as well in the unfortunate event of my demise? Do I need to have 2 wills in effect in order for her to access the funds for the joint account and other assets in Thailand without a lengthy legal process? My superannuation fund has already got locked in clauses regarding beneficiaries and I am assured that all concerned will receive the percentages stipulated regardless of what part of the world they live in. Basically, I want to make sure there will be no need for ongoing legal issues in the future (that I will not be part of) that can be avoided. Any help would be appreciated.
Sunbelt Legal responds: A will in Australia covers assets in Australia while a will under Thai law covers your assets in Thailand. It can also cover funeral arrangements should you pass away in Thailand. You will need to appoint an executor for the will and your wife would need to show a death certificate and a copy of the will and marriage license in order to access the joint bank accounts after your death.
You will need to execute two wills; one in Australia and one in Thailand. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in writing wills for foreigners living in Thailand and can ensure that it is written so as to be executed according to your wishes.
When am I going to return to Planet Somchai? This break is only temporary, right? No-one in their right mind would stay away from paradise for more than a couple of weeks, would they? Some folks insist it's all a lie and I never even left! (I'm not sure how they explain the NZ photo essays – I guess they were created in the same Hollywood back lot where the Apollo moon landing was staged, eh?!) I've been told by a good few folks who have never met me – and who certainly don't know me – that I won't last outside Thailand. I guess what they probably mean is that they could not handle being away from Thailand. Really, there's not a lot I miss and it will be interesting to see how I feel in months to come. Things might be quite different then. Who knows?
Your Bangkok commentator,