Stickman's Weekly Column May 10th, 2015

The Last Month, Explained

After counting down for a year to what was supposed to be the end of this column, I did an about-turn and it didn't end after all. Was this a marketing gimmick as one reader suggested, a convoluted effort to generate renewed interest in the site? Was there ever any real intention to close things down? Today I answer these questions and more.

To understand why the site continues, I need to go back and explain the many reasons why I was going to stop the column in the first place.

Website And Bar Industry Issues

This column is perhaps best known for covering the bar industry, an industry that has changed greatly over the period I have been chronicling it. One of the major changes is those who control the industry today, the new generation of bar owners. A few weeks ago I wrote about "G", the boiler room kingpin come bar mogul who died in northern Thailand. G was the first bar boss I knew who I think of as being part of the criminal class of foreigners. Today these guys own and run many expat bars in downtown Bangkok. G's arrival in the industry changed the atmosphere in the plaza as his posse of cronies and crooks reveled in behaving like assholes, intimidating customers and threatening other owners. Often seen in their gang patches and frequently spoiling for a fight, with millions of dollars invested in the plaza at one time G ran half the bars in Nana Plaza. As the guy chronicling the industry it was impossible to do what I do without bumping in to him and the many wankers and hangers on who had their tongue up his ass. I tried to avoid them when making my rounds but that was not possible. When they were in the plaza it became a less enjoyable place to be, and like many, I visited Nana Plaza less and less. Many with business interests in the plaza hated these goons for the way they scared away many regular customers.

The new criminal class of farangs in the bar industry are a different breed to the bar owners of old, some of who were rough around the edges – but they were generally harmless. Dealing with the criminal class of farang bar owners is like dealing with the Mafia. Meetings often start with lines such as, "Do you know who I know?" or "Do you know what I could do to you?" They aren't wannabe gangsters as Arsenal Alex once said. Alex got the wannabe part wrong. They are real deal gangsters, they often had uniformed cops act as bodyguards and despite owning only half the bars in the plaza, they all but controlled it.

The amount of time it takes to run this site and put together this column means I have to solicit advertising to make it worth my while. When one group owns large swatches of the bar industry, you really need to be dealing with them.

The criminal class of bar owners are a nightmare to deal with, not just because they are unprofessional, but because when they pay you money they expect more than just advertising. In their eyes you are now on the books. You are a member of the family. They expected loyalty, absolute loyalty. It's difficult to be objective about the industry when the criminal class of farang owns great swathes of it and they are paying you for advertising and expect absolute loyalty. I struggled with that.

Let's take, for example, the pressure G put on other bar owners when it came to colluding on prices in the plaza and fixing them. Other owners were told not to price drinks below 85 baht and pressure was put on one bar which had 69 baht drinks all
night long. That's part of the reason there was no early evening happy hour in Nana Plaza – G would not allow it. I knew exactly what was going on with 2 bar owners protested to me about it, imploring me to write about it. G found out
that I had been told and intimated that it would not be good for me to mention it. I took the hint.

Putting the column together is no fun when you feel restrictions about what can and cannot be written, not just from the oppressive laws of the land, but from gangland bar figures. Losing an advertiser concerned me not, but gangsters don't take kindly
to any criticism whatsoever, constructive or not and I knew that if I wrote what was really going on I would not be welcome in Nana, or worse.

Fortunately the farang criminal class seems to be largely confined to just one Bangkok bar area. Since 2012 Nana Plaza feels like it's run by the sort of people who run bars in London's Soho or Sydney's King's Cross – the criminal
class who put up a friendly front when everyone knows what happens behind the scenes concerns all sorts of skullduggery.

The criminal class of bar owners aren't the only bar bosses difficult to work with. In recent times many bar owners have become ultra sensitive. Even a seemingly innocuous comment such as a bar is not doing well can result in indignant
emails and veiled threats. I can do without that.

Some operators act like they're pure and innocent despite many employing girls with fake IDs, cheating customers with drinks which aren't what the bottle says, presenting post-op ladyboys as females and even cheating their
own farang staff with false promises of a work permit and 1-year visa that never materialise.

Changing Times

When I first came to Thailand a not untypical profile of visitors was single, middle-aged and male. This column was relevant to many visitors. You could not write about Bangkok without writing about the expat bar areas. That can't be said today. A comprehensive Bangkok column these days need only touch briefly on the bar areas and still be entirely legitimate. Many Bangkok expats today have never been to, nor will they ever visit the likes of Nana Plaza or Patpong. You couldn't say that 15 years ago. Bangkok's expat bar areas are utterly insignificant in the big scheme of things. As such, the level of detail and analysis I go in to at times seems pointless.

There was a time when I thought that this website, and especially the column and the bar industry coverage provided a useful service. I really did believe that what I was doing was genuinely worthwhile. I truly believed I was helping people – and with that came a sense of pride. Now, I don't really feel that way, at least not in terms of the bar industry content.

The People

Getting away from this website and the bar industry, Thailand has long attracted the lonely, the depressed, the damaged, the addicted, those on the run and those looking to make a fresh start. In many ways the place is a shit magnet. Westerners with problems move to Thailand thinking it will be a new beginning, failing to see that the problem is with them and not related to geography.

Many who become expats reinvent themselves to escape a shady past. Some are on the lam. They aren't necessarily bar customers. Some hold the respected title of ajarn and are teaching the youth of Thailand. They sit across from you on the skytrain, they're your neighbours, they're everywhere and they're unavoidable. You can't escape them. It's all very cute to term them “characters” – some are – but many are something much worse. Thailand has never attracted the best of the West. With relaxed visa policies, readily available sex, rules that can be relaxed and serious problems resolved with money, there are so many reasons why Thailand is a shit magnet.

But it's a region-wide thing, right? It's not just Thailand, yeah? Actually, I am not convinced of that (except, perhaps in the case of Cambodia which attracts a similar crowd).

When investigative journalist Andrew Drummond broke the story about a fellow arrested for kiddy fiddling and a photo of the guy was posted with his hands on a very young
girl's knee it rocked me. That person was not just an advertiser on this site, he was someone I would see regularly and socialise with, someone I liked, someone I considered a friend. When it was reported that he was caught in a hotel
room with a 12-year old girl in Pattaya it hit me hard. I'd been promoting this guy's business for years – and in fairness to him he was very good at what he did and ran a good, clean business. What someone gets up to in their
free time is not my business, but when it comes to kiddy fiddling you can't look the other way. It reiterated to me that you really don't know what a lot of the seemingly clean-living expats in Thailand are up to.

While, yes, you can avoid most of the shit that lives in Thailand these days, if you're writing a column about the Bangkok expat lifestyle with a focus on the bar industry you just can't get away from it. You need to deal with these people and be nice to them – and that can really get you down.

The Issues Faced By A Bangkok Webmaster

Over the years I have had knocks on the door by people in uniform, and we're not talking random checks. In my own country it wouldn't bother me – there is due process and rules that must be followed. You know what your rights are, you can exercise them and you know you will be treated fairly. Thailand is another world.

The biggest concern these days for ANYONE IN THAILAND POSTING ANYTHING ONLINE are the oppressive libels laws and the Computer Crime Act. All it needs is for one person – just one person – to take exception to comments you make online and they can file a complaint against you. If the charge is accepted, you're facing criminal charges. It doesn't matter if what you said is factually correct, if it could reasonably be considered as harmful to that person's reputation, you're in the gun. It's a giant headache not just for webmasters, but for anyone writing anything online in Thailand. You have to self-censor in the extreme and are greatly limited by what you can say. The Computer Crime Act is a webmaster killer.

I have been threatened numerous times. There's the occasional abusive email, and some really disturbing emails from clearly messed up folks. I have been followed. I have been forced out of an apartment with 2 days' notice (related to the website, nothing to do with tenancy issues). Like every farang website, this site has never been entirely compliant under Thai law. As you become more aware of how the justice system works in Thailand – or doesn't work – you understand how vulnerable you are. I reached a point where I didn't want to face that. As one friend put it, It's inevitable that sooner or later you're going to have a problem if you keep going with the website in Thailand. It's amazing I was able to avoid a major issue as long as I did.

The Place of Foreigners in Thailand

I tried to do business with Thais but it never worked. It would almost always go the same way. At some point they remind you – indirectly – that they are Thai and you are not, and in the case of any dispute with a Thai (in other words, with them) a foreigner has no chance. Full credit to them for being upfront and basically telling you that at some point they are going to fxxk you over. When you eliminate Thais as possible business partners, and you're not comfortable dealing with the criminal class of foreigners, you fast run out of people to do business with.

When you see how things are in Thailand – that foreigners are second-class citizens – and that the chance of at some point getting in a dispute with a Thai – perhaps through no fault of your own – is real, and the odds of winning that dispute are low, then you have to ask yourself if that's a situation you want to be in. You have to ask yourself if you really want to be there?

There Are Alternatives

In mid-2012, I visited Vietnam for the first time. I loved it. I found the people interesting, engaging and genuine. I admired their work ethic and the way they went about things, the importance they place on education and their willingness to roll their sleeves up and do the hard yards.

Vietnam appealed briefly as an alternative to Thailand, but I get the feeling that expats there probably face many similar issues as expats in Thailand.

When I finally made it to India I discovered a truly fascinating country with a culture, history and tourist sites far beyond anything Thailand has to offer, a cuisine more to my taste and people I could have a real conversation with and who I had stuff in common with. We shared the same principles of democracy and freedom of speech. Of all the countries I have visited, I have never been as well-received nor as well looked after as I have in India. There is so much to like about the country and the people are amazing.

India mightn't appeal as an expat destination, but as a place to hang out for a year or two, to travel around, to explore, to enjoy the magnificent food and to wear my cameras out, India has a very strong appeal.

What does Thailand offer that these places don't? Apart from an open bar industry and a smorgasbord of sex I can't think of much else. Thailand is perfect for sex tourists and sexpats. That's of zero importance to me.

Stickman Going Forward

I considered doing something completely different from running this website but the truth is I don't like living in Thailand any more. I don't like it that while downtown Bangkok has the veneer of a modern international city, that many problems don't just remain, they have actually got worse. Corruption is more widespread, more costly and its ugly tentacles now extend well in to expat society.

Owning and operating a business in Thailand as a foreigner at this time strikes me as just too much hassle. There's a lot of nonsense I'm just not willing to put up with and too much uncertainty. No-one can predict what Thailand's future may bring.

So why did I leave the country – as planned – but continue to run the column and the site? The answer to that question is simple.

Two days before I left the country I received a phone call from a friend. He knew I was leaving but he didn't know when. He was calling because he wanted to buy the site.

We'd previously talked about it but the timing was wrong. He was interested in buying it and he was willing to pay what I wanted for it.

There was, however, a catch. While he wanted the site, it would only happen if I stayed on as the main writer and editor. Without me involved, he said, the risk was just too high. 30 minutes later we were talking about it over coffee.

The deal hasn't been done, but I am confident it will be. This savvy guy brings a team which will develop the site in ways I could never have imagined. At the same time this column will stay much the same.

Of course the direction of the site and the column might change a little. Much of the bar news already comes from owners, managers and trusted contacts who are routinely out and about. This column has never been about where to get blown on the cheap. It's more about industry news, trends, analysis and gossip. Not being on the ground doesn't necessarily mean there will be any less bar industry coverage – and this week's column is a good example with heaps of bar industry news and gossip.

Operating remotely means that I have the freedom to write what I want. That's not so say I will abuse this, I won't, but I will write with rather a greater degree of freedom. I will call a spade a spade.

So where is this column going? Can I realistically expect to produce an informative and entertaining Bangkok column while living 10,000 km away? It will be a challenge, but it's not like I'm doing anything new. Career investigative journalist Andrew Drummond writes about Thailand's expat villains from his home in the UK. Former local Reuters head, Andrew McGregor Marshall, rants about the echelons of power and influence in Thailand from across the border. Over the last 3 years, and particularly the past 12 months, I have hardly spent any time in the bars, taking photos aside. Plenty of bar news and gossip comes direct from those working in the industry – as it always has. I have spent extended periods outside the country in the past 7 years which I have never before mentioned – and never has there been so much as a peep about it from readers. Of course it's not ideal and, yes, it would be better if I was there on the ground – but that's not going to happen.

Can I continue to make this column a worthwhile read and something to look forward to every Sunday. If I wasn't sure I could do that I wouldn't be trying. There's no shortage of topics to write about and being remote actually gives me a number of new things to cover.

The column will never forget its roots. The look will remain basically the same but there will be technical improvements. I'm excited about this. A few weeks ago I was unsure how I would feel about it. Now I can honestly say I'm excited. Think of it as the same voice entering a new era. Strap in and enjoy the ride!

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken at Wang Burapa intersection, near Saphan Han in the Pahurat area, across from what was the
Merry Kings Department Store. Only one person got it right.

(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.

He Clinic Bangkok

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The need to compare.

I am fed up. I realise that this goes on all over the world, but in the last two years it has reached an extreme peak in my personal experience. Examples:

– Take the girlfriend out for a nice meal. The only thing her friends want to know is, "How much did he spend?"

– Go on a weekend away, "How much did he spend?"

– Go on a holiday abroad, "How much did he spend?"

– Buy her a mobile phone, "How much did he spend?"

– 'Captain Save-A-Whore' (not me) buys a house, "How much did he spend?"

"How much? How much? How much?" Never seems to be, "Did you enjoy it?", "Is it a nice house?", "Oh, that is a nice phone!" Nope, "How much? How much? How much?" Everything is monetised and set on the comparison ladder. If you are reading this, you simple-minded, shallow, ignorant fools, then take this from me. Fxxk off! It does not matter how much it costs, the only important aspect is that it gives pleasure. How much it cost is not important, so just shut up and fxxk off! For roughly a decade we lived happily in rented accommodation where the neighbours were mostly Thai. The last few years I made the big mistake of moving into a small street with all Farangs and their Thai bitches. Jaws started wagging and the constant, "How much? How much? How much?" is driving me insane. I have to move somewhere else.

Show me the beauties.

CBD bangkok

Why don't you run some of those Kiwi girls you mention as girl of the week? I would love to see evidence of attractive, single, white birds in Kiwiland because I sure have not had the good fortune to spot any when I have been there. That said, I have not spent more than 1 night in Auckland and 1 night in Wellington in all my trips – so I can only assume that these attractive, single, white birds hang out in Auckland and Wellington. I sure can't remember any elsewhere in the country. Thighs like pine-trees sums up the 'talent' I have seen in the rest of the country very well. Every time after the long trip back, I get on to the MRT to go to work in the morning, and think "Yeah, back to daily eye-candy again at last!"

Bangkok over Brisbane.

Your photos are wonderful and certainly portray what a beautiful country New Zealand must be. In reading through your comments, I am picking up a kind of reluctance in your accepting that parts of New Zealand are not for you. I guess the "dream" may not always be what we imagine when reality takes charge. I have lived in rural environments twice, on acreage property – even going so far as to rely on solar power generation. The dream seemed attractive – but it was far from satisfactory after experiencing it in the long run. Wellington and Auckland may be large cities and the commercial and administrative centres of the North Island – and you say your family and most friends live in Auckland. I have no experience of New Zealand – but I wonder if even Auckland would seem too tame for you after the fast pace of Bangkok for so long. Whenever I come back to Oz from Thailand I get depressed at the inferior infrastructure we have in Brisbane. Landing back in Brisbane is a big downer for me, an anticlimax. The road system is inferior to Bangkok and everything seems so small in comparison. Even Sydney does not cut it for me, compared to Bangkok. I love the frantic pace, the noise, the smells and the chaotic traffic of Bangkok. It gives me a buzz like nowhere else does. I hope you find what you are searching for.

New Zealand and Bangkok look a little different.

I loved your New Zealand photo essay. There I am scrolling through all of these amazing photos of a beautiful landscape and then I get to a shitty, city street and I think what the fxxx? Then I see it's your photo of the week in Bangkok. Classic! I don't know if you intended to show how different New Zealand looks to Bangkok but that made me roar!

wonderland clinic

Retiring to New Zealand.

New Zealand is an attractive place, but when I did research on retiree visas I found the requirements pretty tough. If 65 or over, you can apply for a 2-year visa but you must invest at least NZ$ 750,000 in the country and prove an annual income of NZ$ 60,000. I could handle the financial requirements, but I'm 60 so I don't meet the minimum age. Since many of your readers complain about Thailand's 800,000 baht requirement, I suspect many could not meet NZ's requirement so Kiwiland is not a viable option. Student visas are available, but applicants must either be on an approved exchange program or matriculating at a legitimate university program. No bogus education visas as in Thailand.

I note that you mention the amount of women in Auckland. I was on NZ Dating and it was as if it should have been called NZ Shagging as there were so many opportunities out there.

A new kid on the block.

I'm brand new to the Thailand scene and have been reading your posts almost non-stop for a few months now. I think it's such a shame that as I am getting in, you are getting out! It seems like a lot of you expats are dissatisfied and find Thailand a mess. I hate to break it to you but I think that in one way or another, every country is a mess in its own way! I'm from the US. Have you heard of the riots lately? It's a mess too in the glorious land of star-spangled banners! Drama with crazy Thai wives? The divorce rate here is sky high and you should see the crazies back home! Same same wherever you go. Now I have no intention of moving to Thailand as I have found a certain degree of success back home, but I have been twice and want to keep coming back. I know there are other blogs out there but yours is, from what I can tell, simply the best and it would be shame for me not to be able to refer to your advice whenever I travel back. While you think about quitting for good, think about the new kids on the block that look up to you.

Who killed the Cowboy?

Last week twice I killed 2 hours in Cowboy and felt like I was in outer space! I went to 4 bars from 8 – 10 PM, being more or less the only customer in each. Not one lady tried to make contact or even ask for a lady drink. That would be unthinkable 20 years back.

Candy Land in Nana Plaza, the large bar once known as G Spot, closed last weekend. It was losing money and the operator did not see any future to develop or turn around the business, a combination of the sheer size of the bar and the cost structure. The rent and electric ran almost 500K baht per month. As we know, and as I expect to feature a lot in the column over the next couple of months, Nana Plaza bar leases come up for renewal in July with a huge wedge of cash to be handed over to the landlord. The bar's last day of operation was Saturday, May 2nd, and on Sunday morning suppliers wasted no time in removing sound & lighting equipment. Manager Joe came in on Sunday to inform the staff and most were offered jobs at Candy Land 2, which is owned by a different group of partners. All Candy Land 1 staff were paid on the 5th as per normal and any staff not accepted at Candy Land 2 were paid severance pay. The strategy of consolidating staff from Candy Land 1 in to Candy Land 2 bars appear to have been successful. Sales are up 100% since the transition and rent is half of what it was at Candy Lane 1. The operator is walking away from a 1-million baht deposit which was written off as G died and others took over.

It is happening in Nana, just as I predicted it would. With Candy Land 1's doors closed, there are now 4 bars out of commission in the plaza – Jail Birdz (never closed per se, but not yet opened, a black spot for almost 2 years), Bubbles, Underground and now Candy Land. All 4 of these bars are large and four black spots in the plaza doesn't do the plaza as a destination any good. Light within the plaza comes from bar neon so when one bar is closed, it creates a dark spot. When you have 4 bars closed – all of them sizeable – that's four dark patches and four fewer bars to visit which should be a major concern.

There have been more changes in Nana Plaza as crunch time approaches. DC-10 going totally ladyboy has upset punters who want nothing to do with ladyboys and who quite reasonably wish to know which bars in Nana Plaza are ladyboy-only and which bars have some ladyboys so they can avoid them. I've long said that those bars with no ladyboys should say so and use that as a means to promote themselves. Stick a large sign up and say the bar is a ladyboy-free zone! Personally, I think ladyboys are entertaining, but many want nothing to do with chicks with dicks – if a bar has even a single a ladyboy service attendant, they won't go inside. No names mentioned, but I maintain that those Nana bars that secretly have post-op ladyboys masquerading as ladies are asking for trouble. By my count, there are currently 21 gogo bars open in Nana Plaza and almost 10 i.e. almost half the gogo bars in Nana Plaza are either exclusively ladyboy bars or have a sprinkling of ladyboys. In some bars with just a few post-op ladyboys it is not obvious, especially after a few drinks. I've been around a while and I admit that even sometimes I cannot tell. What hope does someone new to the industry have? Bar bosses are free to run their bars as they please but failing to acknowledge that for many punters the presence of ladyboys is a deal breaker is something they shouldn't stick their head in the sand over.

Some of the girls from the closed Bubbles are being lined up for Jail Birdz, which is kind of a joke because it still has not opened. You can find some of them in the plush freelancer venue complete with rooms on the premises, The Den, in Sukhumvit soi 12.

Jail Birdz on the top floor of Nana Plaza *may* open in the next couple of weeks. The developer says they are close to opening the doors, although I have heard that before. Inside, the main structure is completed. Seating, tables, fixtures & fittings need to be put in so with a bit of luck it might be finished soon.

Amongst the bar owners insisting on not just an about-turn on the lease increases in Nana, but a reduction on existing lease rates, is one of the Rainbow bars! Things are going to get VERY interesting VERY soon in Nana and I expect Nana news to dominate bar news for weeks to come.

On Friday night a bar in Nana Plaza received a slap on the wrist after a girl was discovered in the bar without a legitimate ID card. She entered the bar with a customer and the boys in brown did not believe that she did not work there. Following a visit to the local cop shop, the bar in question will have to close at midnight one night this coming week.

The new Dutch partner in Spellbound is also the guy who has taken over Underground, but work needs to be done before it can reopen again. It was left in a bad state and the stench inside is so bad that some say it makes you feel dizzy! Fortunately, the new owner has a construction company, so he has a team to renovate. I wonder if he will knock out that wall between Spellbound and Underground which might help people be able to see the entrance to Underground which I maintain is set too far back and partially concealed.

The new majority shareholder in Spellbound does not like the shows and considers them an unnecessary expense. Does he not realise that was the point of distinction in the bar, that which sets it apart from other venues? The entire show team lost face over that, packed up their kit and walked out! Subsequently there are no shows in Spellbound. Dancer numbers are down and a bar that had been building nicely looks like it is going to have to rebuild.

The Strip in Patpong soi 2 raised money for children who have suffered after the earthquake disaster in Nepal. On the nights of Friday May 1st and Saturday 2nd, all tips were donated towards this cause. The bar collected twice the amount in tips they normally do and would like to say a big thank you to all customers who contributed. When the owner came up with the idea he told staff that he would fully reimburse them for the tips they missed out on. Instead, the staff were happy to donate their "lost" tips and donated even more from their own pockets. The grand total raised was 9,270 baht which has since been deposited in to the appeal fund account at Bangkok Bank.

There is a new bar area emerging down at Onut which is increasingly popular with foreigners who live in the area, many of whom like the convenience of being able to walk from their residence and who don't want to face the hassle of the skytrain to go to the traditionally popular haunts. No doubt some eschew paying the prices that some joints on soi 11 charge these days. There's a great vibe, a real potpourri of expats and locals, moneyed up and otherwise. Check it out.

Two reports, each from Sukhumvit soi 22, suggest police stopping foreigners on Sukhumvit and asking to conduct a search of their person has resumed. One reader was walking down soi 22 from what was Washington Square to Sukhumvit and was stopped, asked to show some sort of ID and also asked to turn out his pockets and hand over his wallet for inspection. The other was walking in the same direction down the other side of soi 22, and was stopped near No Idea Pub. In each case the stop was made by two cops on a motorbike. * A foreign resident of Bangkok posted a video to YouTube of being stopped by police on Sukhumvit soi 23

Steve Bain has penned an ebook, Thai Dating Culture, with hints and tips for dating Thais and profiles of Thai ladies looking for
a foreign partner and Thai ladyboys.

Traffic from Bangkok to Pattaya last weekend – which just happened to be a long holiday weekend – was said to be a nightmare. Some say it was the worst they have ever seen. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come on holiday weekends.

Some reports in the business section of English language newspapers in Thailand are so imprecise and at times use such confusing language that they are almost unreadable. My understanding is that many articles are often first written in Thai by a Thai. They are then translated into English by another Thai before a native English-speaking sub-editor fixes the English up and makes the article pop. That's enough stages for things to get lost in translation. Subtle differences can cause an article to become totally confusing – a drop in inflation at some point becomes deflation, which of course is something completely different. Then you get confusion over increases and decreases where it's often not clear whether something has increased or decreased by an amount or to an amount. It makes reading the business section frustrating. Is this sloppy copy simply a reflection of the business environment?!

I note the Thai baht has dropped a few percent against most major currencies over the past couple of weeks which should mean a little extra baht in the pocket of visitors. Will it keep falling?

And a reminder, to get the best rates for your foreign currency in Bangkok, go to one of the private money exchange offices downtown like Super Rich and Vasu which offer better rates than the banks. Vasu,
located on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 7/1, right under the Nana BTS station, is perhaps the easiest to find.

As I look at property prices in my homeland and cringe, I realise just how inexpensive housing in Thailand is. Now I am not ever going to move to Pattaya – it's always struck me as the end of the line, kind of like checking out of life – but one property I browsed online stood out. A 2-bedroom, 96-square metre condo in Sin City for 3.8 million baht
certainly sounds attractive price-wise – and goes to show you can still get a decent-sized condo in a part of Thailand popular with foreigners on the cheap.

Quote of the week comes from a respondent on Drummond's site commenting on scammers and con men in Thailand, "These guys are so emboldened in Thailand they feel free to crawl out of the sewer, and into the light."

Reader's story of the week is about a bar on Sukhumvit soi 23 that pressed a reader's buttons, "

An Irishman gets clouted with a stiletto by a ladyboy on Pattaya's Walking

Identity thieves in Thailand are setting up fake SIM registration desks to get the personal details of
mobile phone users.

The BBC goes on a quest to find the perfect pad Thai.

Jake Needham wrote about the Life of A Crime Novelist in Bangkok in a magazine for readers of mysteries and

Drummond posts a truly harrowing tale of a dual South Africa / Brit national who died in Thailand's prison system.

CNBC looks at the fall of the Thai baht this past week.

There's another stain on the brown uniform as 50 cops are transferred after
suspected links to human trafficking networks.

Thailand ranks right near the bottom of countries worldwide for tourist safety and security.

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 dual nationality (Dutch / Thai) son is returning to live in Thailand this summer after finishing his studies in Europe. He will be joined by his English
fiancée whom he intends to marry at a later stage. As his fiancée, what type of visa can she get? Secondly, after they have married, what requirements are there for her to obtain a work permit as they intend to start their own company?
Over the years I have heard numerous times that a farang woman married to a Thai man is treated very differently than a farang man married to a Thai woman. However, I have never heard of a legal basis for this. Any advice is most welcome.

Sunbelt Legal responds: There is no fiancee visa, so she would need to come in on a tourist visa and then once married apply for a non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national.

In Thailand's culture, the man is considered as the head of the family and your son's wife would be receiving her one year extension on the non-O based on marriage to a Thai husband. He must apply for her; they are both required to come for the application and interviews. While he does not need to show money in the bank or an income, the officer may ask to see that he has paid his Thai income taxes and he may need a receipt from the tax office showing these taxes are paid. They will need to include photos of them together, their wedding, and in their home together. They will also need a letter from the village headman stating that they live together for the one year visa extension application as well as the marriage license and registration from the District Office where they married.

If she plans on working in her husband's business in an active role and helping to manage the business and its finances she will need to apply for a work permit. She can do this on the non-O extension based on marriage to a Thai husband. The husband will need to set up a Thai Limited Company, of which his wife can be a partner along with another person so long as the Thai holds the majority of shares. It is important to note that if the foreign employee is the spouse of a Thai person only 1 million baht is necessary for registered capital.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in obtaining one year extensions and in forming companies and obtaining work permits and would be happy to assist your son and daughter-in-law in the correct procedures.

Patpong Bangkok
I expect other bar areas to benefit from Nana Plaza's difficulties.

Expect Nana Plaza to dominate bar news over the next couple of months. With leases coming up for renewal, much is riding on what happens. Already the plaza has problems with 4 large bars closed and some bars which are operating said to be losing money. The obvious solution would appear to be for the landlord to lower rents, but not knowing what their situation is who knows whether they will do that or not or even whether it would be viable. Add to this the in-fighting within the plaza and it's obvious there are serious problems. It's going to be a very interesting story to follow and watch how it all unfolds, or is that unravels!

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza