I'm currently enjoying the winter wonderland and didn't write an opening piece this week so today's column is shorter than usual. It comprises your emails, bar and general expat news and thoughts, along with the Sunbelt Asia Legal question and answer section. The column is still close to 5,000 words so hopefully a shorter Stickman this week doesn't ruin your Sunday!
Where Stickman currently finds himself. Trip report coming soon.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken looking up Sukhumvit soi 23 with Soi Cowboy about 100 metres further up on the left. The sign for the skanky, scary Twins bar had been blurred in Photoshop so as not to give it totally away.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The truth about tourism numbers.
The government says tourism numbers are at their highest. Yes, they are, but it's the low-class, low-spending, low-educated and socially inept from China spending their meagre funds in businesses owned and operated by the Chinese government.
The Swedish model.
I don't know if you are aware of the 'Swedish model' that is now being promoted by the puritans that criminalise the buyers of sex – but allows the sellers to operate legitimately! Apparently the (feminist?) agenda in Sweden is now taking this a stage further and will criminalise / prosecute Swedish men who travel abroad (e.g. to Thailand) to buy sex. I have no idea how that will work (private dicks following / spying on errant dicks overseas?) but they are quite serious about 'punishing' the Swedish naughty boys. This model has now been adopted in Northern Ireland and goes before parliament in Republic of Ireland (where I live) shortly. Imagine if the same logic was applied to the drugs industry which is a much bigger problem here, and worldwide. What a load of nonsense. We even had former US president Jimmy Carter sticking his oar in and exhorting the Irish government to adopt the Swedish model. Like they don't have enough problems in America for him to focus on! Of course no right-thinking person condones trafficking of girls to force them in to prostitution but as in Thailand this seems to be a small / tiny minority of sex workers (with pretty good escape mechanisms now available). IMO, most of the ladies working in the industry are there by choice or economic necessity. I sometimes wonder what the moral majority intend to do to provide alternative employment opportunities for the majority of sex workers that are in the industry by choice – and whose livelihood they want to abolish. It's a funny old world when people think they can apply their personal moral opinions / position to abolish the oldest profession / industry on the planet. Let's watch that space with interest.
The Greece issue and Thailand.
The ongoing Greek crisis is hanging heavy on the Euro and this must have an impact on many Europeans' ability to travel to / holiday in Thailand (or indeed countries with dollar-based currencies where the exchange is even worse). A few years ago I was getting about 50 baht to the Euro. Today it's about 37 (a greater than 25% drop). This, together with the obvious inflation creep / leap in prices in the entertainment areas in Thailand, makes me think twice before making travel plans to Thailand. I am sure other Europeans will be making similar assessments that may well lead to a drop in visitors to Thailand (and not just sex tourists) and an upsurge in holidays to European (Euro currency) countries, particularly those that have liberal sexual agendas such as Spain, Netherlands, Germany, and Eastern European countries.
Who was he?
Some years ago, I was sitting in Peppermint gogo (Pattaya), looking at the main stage with a nice collection of dancers in bikini and topless, and a collection of topless and without bikini dancers on the other stages. A dancer was having a drink with me. A Thai guy walked in. He got many respectful bows from all the service staff, and was guided to a seat near the main stage. A shock went through the dancers: those having lady drinks physically getting closer to their customer, my dancer crawling up to me, and the dancers on stage trying to make themselves invisible. The manager himself came over to serve a drink. The senior Thai watched the stage, sipping his drink. After a few minutes, he pointed to a girl on stage. The two of them left the bar, leaving a half-filled glass and an empty seat. After about 20 minutes, the man came back, finished his drink, and left. No bill was ever created.
The busiest is not necessarily the best.
I would like to share a recent experience at Bacarra. I was there about a couple weeks ago and as soon as I'd settled down on a sofa on the first floor, a not-so-attractive girl (in my taste, of course) stood before me, did a half-hearted wai and asked for a lady drink. In general I don't refuse any request for one lady drink so I okayed her. She orders a Tequila. The drink arrives, she gulps it down immediately and announces "I go dance now!" Not that I was terribly missing her company as I didn't find her too attractive in the first place, but the way she "stole" the lady drink looked like a "scam" to me. Having a packed house regularly, those girls shouldn't have any issue in fulfilling their quota of lady drinks, and hence shouldn't carry out those tricks on customers. Maybe this is why Tilac remains my favourite bar in Soi Cowboy. With as gorgeous a line-up as Baccara has, the environment is a lot more sanuk in Tilac.
Bacarra cornering the Japanese market.
I often spend many a night on the now middle level at Bacarra in Soi Cowboy and have always found venturing in mid-week around 11 PM to be less expensive than one might think. I'm in my late 30s, still look alright and more often than not find myself walking out with an affordable stunner having had a number of drinks and a good time without feeling like I have had my pockets emptied. On my most recent trip I found things had changed. It seemed more crowded mid-week often till after 1:00 / 1:30 AM than on a Saturday night. It has always been popular with Japanese and I found all 3 levels to be full of middle-aged and old Japanese businessmen. On the Saturday I ventured in there wasn't anywhere near the amount of grey hair. Are Thai, ANA and Japan Airlines flights from Tokyo to Bangkok full of a Monday morning and equally full on a Friday afternoon for the return trip? Are there record figures for Japanese business investment in Thailand occurring at the moment? Has word spread in Japanese business circles of the delights that can be found in a school skirt and a pair of white runners? A weekday evening in one of Bangkok's best gogos in the middle of low season would suggest that at the moment.
Tour guide recommendation.
I read the email asking about advice in relation to tour guides in Bangkok. This might be a few years late, but I can recommend Natt Opasanon. I had a fantastic experience hiring Natt as my Bangkok tour guide. I booked her for 3 days of tours a couple of years ago and she was amazing. She is married to an Aussie who I think handles their website because all the email communication before the trip was prompt and the written English was very good. Natt's English is excellent and her knowledge of Thai history and culture was very good. Natt was very easy to talk to and I felt like I was travelling with a friend who could speak the local language. Natt has a number of employees she personally trains and she specialises in small tour groups from one to twelve. My tour experience was just Natt and myself. She organised the hire of a minivan for the two days that we travelled out of Bangkok. I did Hellfire Pass and the bridge over River Kwai on day one, Ayutthaya the second day and a tour of the sights in Bangkok on the third day. Natt was completely flexible with the program and asked me what I wanted to see. I could even change the program part way through the day. The other thing I remember was her punctuality. We agreed to meet at the foyer of my hotel in Bangkok at 8 AM and Natt was there early every day. The price per day for her tour guide services might be a bit higher than whatever competition there is in Bangkok but it was worth it. I am not affiliated with her or her business in any way, I just thought you might like to know of a tour guide business that will not rip off tourists, is reliable and I think great value for money when you consider the excellent service provided. Her business website is YourThaiGuide.com.
Girl Of The Week
Escort, exclusive with PureBangkokEscorts
18 years old, Nelly does yoga and has a very flexible body.
The owner of the Nana Plaza ground floor gogo bar once known as Voodoo has a tentative plan to split off a part of the old Voodoo beer bar (the area outside the gogo bar), enclose it and make it a new bar of about 100 square metres. If the lords of Nana approve it – I expect they would – the plan is to create a bar with a specific theme I don't think any expat bar areas have seen – at least not by design. The working name is Bangkok Milfs and the concept is that all ladies working in that bar would be 34 years or older. I'm sure many of the hardcore punters (many of whom seem to prescribe to the notion of the younger, the better) will be appalled, but frankly I rather like it. I know the vast majority of punters like young but I have always thought that was a big mistake. Guys in bars there primarily to meet a woman want to do so for one of two reasons: they are lonely and they want company or they are horny and they want sex. An older woman will likely be better company as she will in all likelihood be more mature, likely closer in age to the man and having a few years on the clock ought to understand men better. And I am very firmly of the opinion that a woman in her 30s will be much better in bed than a girl in her late teens or early 20s. Bangkok Milfs is still in the concept stage but I for one think it's a great idea and hope it goes ahead.
Lust in Patpong soi 1 looked so nice, promised so much but ultimately delivered so little. Lust could never make its mind up just what sort of venue it was and went from quasi gogo and coyote bar to flash surroundings and expensive drinks hangout and then back to coyotes again. It never had that many girls, never attracted a lot of customers and has finally shut its doors. Word around the Pong is that the owners got sick of sinking money in to it.
Pink Panther consistently has a troop of attractive dancers and word is that the current bunch is even more attractive than usual. Pink Panther is at the Suriwong Road end of Patpong soi 1.
Gogo / coyote bar in Patpong soi 2, Glamour, is still closed. It seems to be closed as often as it is open. What's that all about?
Dave The Rave is quite the multi-tasker and in addition to pulling the strings in Black Pagoda and Bar Bar, he is now also managing The Strip. If you're in Patpong and keen to say hello to the gogo guru, ask for him in any of these 3 bars. If you're lucky he might be in Bar Bar and you might have to venture up the stairs. As the man on the door of Bangkok's top fetish bar says, if you don't try you won't know…
Things are so bad in one large, long-running big-name beer bar way down Soi Nana which stays open long after most bars have closed could be facing a revolt from some staff. A bunch of girls called a meeting amongst themselves about the difficulty they have meeting lady drink and barfine quotas and how they are struggling to make a reasonable salary. Meeting quotas is like climbing Everest for the first time and there is talk of what could be a mass exodus. Bar owners looking for new staff, there's more than a dozen who want out.
On the top floor of Nana Plaza, Billboard is dead. The current owners must believe in reincarnation and have implemented a buy one get one free on some drinks through until 11 PM. Billboard has been struggling for so long that there is feeling this is a case of too little too late.
Word is that Jail Birdz in Nana Plaza – the first "new" bar in the plaza in ages – is very nicely done out. Jail Birdz is full of coyote dancers which may or may not be to your taste – great eye candy for those who like bars with dancers as a backdrop, but not so great for those who like to take away.
Spanky's in Nana Plaza is like a Honda Civic – it never misses a beat. It's consistently busy from shortly after it opens right through until closing, night after night after night – and it's been this way for years.
Some readers who ventured to Club Electric Blue with the intention of getting to know girl of the week, Tequila, who featured in the column " What I (don't) Miss" couldn't find her. There was a reason for that. Miss Tequila has a recurring NON-communicable medical condition and spent some time away from the bar recuperating. She is now back at work and feels a little better. She has not yet been scooped up by an admirer and taken out of circulation…yet! Get well soon, Tequila.
Still in Club Electric Blue, Big Andy's bachelor party was a huge event as 50 girls were stripped naked on stage. Andy had been adamant that no ladyboys would be allowed which is amusing given what he tried to do at my bachelor party…but manager Jim put paid to that and surprised him with two ladyboys anyway. Good job! DJ Phet and Poo the bartender put on the Electric Blue schoolgirl outfit and surprised the boss. The after party on the rooftop of a popular hotel went on and on and on…
It's very much business as normal in Soi Cowboy after the Suzy Wong fiasco. Where some behavior and performances were suspended, everything has very much reverted to normal.
Cowboy 2 is like a restaurant that puts much effort in to the menu and the promotions but less in to what comes out of the kitchen. Cowboy 2 has plenty of attractive coyote dancers who lure you in the bar, but once inside few show the sort of effort up on stage that you would expect of a coyote. Isn't the whole idea of coyotes supposed to be that they can do a bit more than the Bangkok shuffle? It's not that long ago when coyotes could really shake it on stage and now even that isn't something you can take for granted. And with more chubbier coyote dancers around these days, some look like they require something that resembles a shoe-horn to get into their shorts. An explosive wardrobe is a possibility. Most happy hour drinks are 115 baht.
Word reached me late about a fast-thinking Soi Cowboy gogo bar manager who walked right out the front door of the bar posing as a customer when the police raided the bar a couple of weeks back, prior to drug testing. Great thinking, dude – and a lucky escape!
Gentlemen's Club in Pattaya's Soi Diamond was taken over by the Glass House people and the prediction was it would not be long before it closes (again). Well shady know, it seems that business is in the toilet – no, I don't mean the girls are performing tricks in the hong-nam but that there are few customers. Expect that prediction to come true very soon.
When Amethyst on Soi LK Metro was raided recently, two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old were found. Word was that the bar would be closed but as of last night they were still open and operating as if nothing had happened. It just goes to show that traffic infringements aren't the only issues that can be settled without the need to make things official.
Speaking of high profile bar busts and subsequent closures, when news broke last week about a bargirl felating an Asian dude in full view of all and sundry in 808 Disco in Pattaya, the photos of which Zuckerberg saw to it that the whole world saw, well, that venue has not closed either, despite the authorities saying it would be closed for 10 days. Does that mean that blowjobs in full view in bars are now ok?
Still in Pattaya, Maxine's is going through licensing problems and has been closed. The bar opened for a few days and then closed again.
Some massage shops in the Thonglor area now insist on payment before massage after some unscrupulous customers ran off after getting a massage without paying. What low lifes! You're messing directly with that lady's rice bowl.
Some bargoers boast of taking their date to a fancy restaurant. That's a nice gesture and I have no doubt that the better you treat a bargirl out of the bedroom, probably the better she will treat you in it. There is, however, a proviso when wining and dining Thai bargirls – keep it simple. Generally, the fancier the restaurant, the more uncomfortable the average bargirl feels. They may not know many, if any, items on the menu and they may simply not care for Western i.e. to them ethnic food. In terms of ingredients, Thais will eat most anything and few have the sort of hang-ups many Westerners do about certain types of meat and what not – but Thais are very fussy when it comes to taste. Many Thais don't respond well to different styles of cooking and flavours and would much rather eat dishes served with rice or noodles and food types they are used to rather than, for example, a prime American steak or a fabulous pizza.
The building that was Durty Nelly's on Sukhumvit 63 is being converted in to what is to be called Ekamai Beer Bar.
Many have expressed disappointment that what is perhaps the best known street food scene amongst foreigners in Bangkok is to be closed next year. Worse still, the authorities wanted to hasten that closure and cracked down on the seating in the soi, ordering vendors to remove all tables and chairs that were in the soi proper meaning diners could only sit inside venues, drastically reducing the number of people who could dine in the soi. A couple of weeks back city officials descended on the soi en masse and cleared all the seating. But the vendors would fight back! Someone had a word with the management of Sutti Mansion II on the corner of soi 38 which has a large open area downstairs and now much of the seating has been moved there. It's not a long-term solution but is a decent work-around. What's more, the seating is undercover which is a bonus.
For a nation of people so sensitive to bad smells, why don't the Thais do something about some of the foul odours you come across while roaming around Bangkok? Many Thais guffaw at the aroma of Indian cuisine which they find unpleasant to the point of it making them nauseas. They are not shy to point out to all and sundry (but not the offender) when someone has a body odour problem – so why aren't they more proactive when it comes to the bad smells all over Bangkok which, for the most part, comes from discarded trash? I guess that takes a little forethought and responsibility, two traits often in short supply.
Cafe Riviera on Sukhumvit soi 23 has a nice promotion every Wednesday from 6 – 10 PM. Free flow-wine and tapas is just 399 baht ++. A good deal and not a bad choice for a first date. To get to Cafe Riviera, go up Sukhumvit soi 23 and take the first right, which is about 100 metres beyond Soi Cowboy.
I always used to think I was a pain to go on outings or day trips with because of the way I stop to take photos all the time but Thais take the whole photo-taking thing to a whole new level. With Bangkok home to more Facebook users than anyone else and the Thais love showing off, when Thais go anywhere they just have to take photos and the more the merrier. Getting through a meal without taking photos is an accomplishment but on a day trip, forget it!
Quote of the week comes from a Bangkok bar boss, "It's hot and wet in Bangkok this week, just like the bargirls!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Naive Farang, "My Thai Girlfriend from Isaan".
Handsome African devils are paraded before the press after being caught perpetrating romance scams against Thai women.
Schools in Thailand are told to do criminal record checks on foreign teachers after a British paedophile applies for teaching jobs.
The family of a New Zealander without travel insurance who is fighting for his life in Thailand after a motorbike accident is trying to raise $150,000 to help with medical costs.
The two Myanmar men accused of killing two British tourists went on trial in Thailand this week and already there are concerns about the trial.
Folks are suspicious after a Thai bird gives a Brit a big gold necklace which is stolen soon after.
PhuketWan has announced that it will shut down this week as the editor faces a legal battle with the Thai Navy.
In a story that might have parallels with Thailand, many Aussies thinking they had bought land in their name in Indonesia have found out that the nominee deals may in fact be illegal.
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 would like to get a retirement visa or even better, I think a 1-year non-immigrant visa. I am over 50, and have sufficient funds to open a bank account with 800,000 baht. I have no pension, I still work in the US 4 months per year, April & May, and September & October – so I would need multiple entry. My question, even after doing some research, is how and where to open the bank account? It seems a chicken and egg problem – I can't get the visa without a bank account and can't get the bank account without a visa. Or is the visa process multi-step?
Sunbelt Legal responds: You can apply for a non-O visa in your home country before coming to Thailand, you can apply for the non-O visa at the Thai Embassy or Consulate on the basis of retirement. Most likely they will give you the single entry visa valid for 90 days. If so, once you are in Thailand you can then open a bank account with your new visa and transfer in the required 800,000 baht. Some banks may ask for a lease agreement as well.
Bangkok Bank lists the requirements for opening a bank account here but please be aware that requirements may vary from bank to bank and from branch to branch:
Americans should be aware that they may encounter issues with branch offices over the FACTA reporting requirements but can contact the main office's foreign section in Bangkok to instruct the branch manager on how to open the account.
You should open the account and transfer the funds as soon as you arrive. This gives you enough time before you apply for the one-year extension of stay based on retirement for the non-O visa. For the first time applicant of a one-year extension of stay based on retirement, Immigration requires that the funds be in the bank for a minimum of 2 months. Once you reapply the following year the funds will need to be in the bank for three months. Sunbelt Asia can assist you with the extension of your retirement visa if you will be resident in Bangkok. It is important to note that the visa extension based on retirement must be done where you will be living so it is best if your bank account is also held at a bank branch in that area.
Question 2: I frequent Sukhumvit soi 22. I have never been stopped or had to do a pee test. I am however concerned about that as I read that Xanax has been banned as it can be used a date rape drug. Would I have issues if I tested positive for Xanax (Alprazolam) in my system? I use it to unwind and as an old man need a good night's sleep. I don't carry it on me. Any thoughts would be welcome.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Since this type of medication is controlled and can only be prescribed by qualified doctors, you may wish to carry a copy of your prescription with you if you are concerned that the police may give you trouble.
Question 3: My Thai wife has started teaching yoga at her home in Thailand. She is the owner of the home and lives in the home. Since it is a normal-sized home, the room for teaching is not that big and neither is turnover. The estimated net profit is less than 7,500 baht/month. Is there a legal obligation to register this small activity and present an income statement on a yearly basis?
Sunbelt Legal responds: There are a wide range of choices and options for Thai nationals to operate a business in Thailand. Your wife can operate as a sole proprietor registered at the District Office if she is the sole person involved in the business financially. However, if she has investors she could register as a partnership or if there are three or more as a Limited Company. If she registers then the business must declare its income and expenses to the Revenue Department each calendar year.
Additionally, she will need to obtain a sanitary license to operate a yoga business. Other licenses may be necessary depending on the business activities that take place. It is also important to note that the Land Department levies extra taxes for businesses operating out of a home and the local government will have a sign tax that needs to be paid depending on the size of the sign out front. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can walk your wife through this process and assist her with the licensing.
A common sight on Sukhumvit Road, hardcore porn openly displayed for sale
is just one of the many things Thailand gets a hard time about.
Thailand has long marched to the beat of its own drum. In an increasingly connected and interdependent world where countries are expected to be a good neighbour and responsible nation, Thailand has struggled to win plaudits beyond its borders. And now it's battling on the home front too. The military government can't shut up outspoken Thais aghast at the decision to purchase submarines from the Chinese, especially after the debacle that the country's aircraft carrier has become. Freedom of speech is being debated in a country in which no-one seems to understand that you either have freedom of speech or you don't. A grey area there isn't. That discussion is playing out in various forums and there are a number of cases before the courts that revolve around what you can and can't say in Thailand. And speaking of the courts, the case against the two from Myanmar accused of killing two Brits on Ko Tao had barely got underway when it was reported that the key DNA evidence had been lost and as such it could not be retested. When I was living in Thailand I didn't blink at such stories but now that I am outside the country I realise how bizarre so much of what happens in Thailand is.
Your Bangkok commentator,